"The Author, it must be remembered, writes from his own standpoint!"
My personal "Interpretive" Lens!

Do You Have A Question?

If you have a question not covered in this blog feel free to send it to me at my email address, i.e. "snow" dot here "covered" dot here "bamboo" AT symbol here "gmail" dot here "com"

"One thing has always been true: That book ... or ... that person who can give me an idea or a new slant on an old idea is my friend." - Louis L'Amour

"Ideally, your self-defense will never get physical. Avoiding the situation and running or talking you way out - either of these is a higher order of strategy than winning a physical battle." - Wise Words of Rory Miller, Facing Violence: Chapter 7: after, subparagraph 7.1:medical

"Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider..." - Francis Bacon

Warning, Caveat and Note: The postings on this blog are my interpretation of readings, studies and experiences therefore errors and omissions are mine and mine alone. The content surrounding the extracts of books, see bibliography on this blog site, are also mine and mine alone therefore errors and omissions are also mine and mine alone and therefore why I highly recommended one read, study, research and fact find the material for clarity. My effort here is self-clarity toward a fuller understanding of the subject matter. See the bibliography for information on the books.

Note: I will endevor to provide a bibliography and italicize any direct quotes from the materials I use for this blog. If there are mistakes, errors, and/or omissions, I take full responsibility for them as they are mine and mine alone. If you find any mistakes, errors, and/or omissions please comment and let me know along with the correct information and/or sources.

Reader's of this Blog

Search This Blog

Is testing in karate fair?

I read a recent post by Sue on "My journey to black belt" blog and it made me think that this question is extremely important. One reason this strikes a cord with me is in my "job" I am discovering that the economic crises we all encounter in today's climate may be due to a lack of a sense of humanity. In other words we in business tend to look at the bottom line and allow that to dictate how we change to become more "cost-effective." This more often than not means business does NOT even consider the "humanity" of the issue.

This equated to "testing for black belt" or just about any belt in any system be it karate-do, ju-do, aiki-do, ken-do, and so on. It also tends to leak into the more commercial aspects as well as the "school system" mentality, i.e. larger classes which equates more income, etc.

Even in the school systems today the testing tends to be outside the human person, i.e. can you add 2+2, do you know the capitals, etc. We don't teach how to be a good person, how to truly communicate, how to truly reflectively listen and most important how to avoid conflict. Even those few courses on communications tend to teach the easier aspect, i.e. do step one when someone does this (sound familiar, like self-defense lessons). We don't teach how to train the mind for the adrenaline dump, now to manage anger, fear, etc.

Ok, when we test for a belt we tend to stick to the exactness of a technique, its form and its aesthetic aspects - what about function and how that function goes out the window due to the chaos of conflict. Why this happens, because it is most difficult to test for something you cannot see, grasp, or hear, it changes constantly and continuously in life.

Testing tends to be very restrictive. It is a form that is not allowed to fluctuate, change and adjust - it remains the same regardless. Is this actually beneficial for anything other than the form aspect because in my mind it means nothing as to the combative/conflict/fense aspects of karate-jutsu.

When we have large groups and not enough qualified Sensei we tend to test everyone with the exact same criteria, this is not adequate, fair or just. Humans are all unique, different and have varying degrees of both physical and mental ability. It is not a disparity or handicap but rather an understanding that each person is "different" and that means must be evaluated "differently and in relation to that person only."

Example: Oral exam, I ask for the result of 2 to the power of ten. One person answers quickly the correct one while the other person is still computing. Does this mean the person who didn't answer quickly and correctly first is not qualified to compute and answer the problem.? Honestly, if that second person still discovers the answer and learns from it then when it comes time to call up that ability in the future it may mean they can then answer with greater ability, efficiency and proficiency.

In karate-jutsu a practitioner may need to take more time and greater effort to learn how to apply a technique in chaos but when it comes time to apply it in a combative situation, conflict, his encoding may be superior and thus applies it successfully.

Yes, this is just another hypothesis but my studies and research indicates that this is how the brain works when encoding. How it is encoded to make it works is far more important than being able to quote Musashi or Sung Su or to demonstrate in controlled seminar's a specific technique in response to a specific technique. But the question comes up, how do you test for that?

Well, you don't test for that but rather evaluate individually over a period of time. There is a very good reason why teaching and learning is repetitive and takes a period of time with emphasis on continuous reinforcement for life. This is why it is more important to have a Sensei to Deshi ratio that will allow for Sensei to create a training and practice environment that is individual, unique and cohesive (Sensei+Senpai/Kohai relationship over time).

Testing is better thought of as a "shugyo session" where one is not tested for content, form or knowledge but rather the physical application of what they already know while under a great deal of physical and mental stress. It should be chaotic, unrehearsed and with absolutely no list of testing stuff at all. Impromptu, unexpected and not scheduled. Testing not in a group with a lead time but rather one day out of the blue one person is suddenly put into the fire where they either temper their steel or melt into the ground - either way it reflects not on that person but on you, the Sensei, for you failed - not them.

Ahh, I wax philosophical now so off the soap box and my sincerest thanks to Sue for the idea of this post which is not a reflection to her post but a different view of mine regarding testing and age and other stuff :-)


  1. The "shugyo session" idea is an interesting one (if not a little daunting). I can see how it could work in a small school where it is possible to test people individually within a class but I can't see how it's possible to test in this way when there are a dozen or more students ready to test all at once. A degree of organisation and notification is required under these circumstances. Any thoughts?

  2. Hi, Sue: Exactly my point. I feel too much is lost in a larger environment. I would advocate in this instance breaking it down into three to one, three deshi to one Sensei, and have it done on an ongoing basis with this shugyo at the random time where all the Sensei would observe and mentor to see how it all jells at that moment.

    Thanks for commenting, I appreciate the view and the chance to learn from the thoughts and idea's.