Black Belt testings

Discussion in 'General Taekwondo Discussions' started by Matt, Dec 24, 2015.

  1. Matt

    Matt Member

    How intense are your schools black belt exams? As in what do you have to do? Is there an oral section? Board Breaking? Patterns? How long is the test?

    For example I recently just tested for fourth degree black belt. Our black belt exams hold people as young as around 9 pre testing for black belt all the way up to me, one of the highest ranks at our school. Our exams usually last between 4 and 5 hours and include everything from white belt techniques up. Our first section of the test is sitting stance and performing all blocks and strikes, after that we do them moving up and down the floor in front stance. We then repeat this process with kicks, and then we go back to hands for basic combinations. By basic combinations I mean like Down block followed by middle punch without stepping. We then go into kicking combinations/ sparring footwork, for example chun-jin step, full step, spin hook kick. We will do kicking for about an hour or so. After the first hour or so we will get our first 5 minute break and then we are partnered up for self defense. We must defend against, middle punch, face punch, a bo-staff, lapel grab, choke hold, bear hug, wrist grabs, round kicks, and anything else our master can think of. After self defense we move into patterns. We start at chun ji and work our way up. Until you reach third dan you must do from chun ji up till chu je the last second dan pattern. Once you reach third dan we assume you know the color belt patterns because at that point you should be teaching regularly so third dans and higher start patterns at Kwang gae. After doing tons of patterns, this includes weapons patterns so I usually total at around 25 patterns we gear up for full contact sparring. We all must spar at least 3 two minute runs but sometimes we are asked to do more, my fourth dan test I was asked to spar 6 times. After sparring we go into board breaking. Those that are pre testing for testing for first dan/poom must do every board break they did to achieve a color belt rank. That means step side kick, back kick to the rear, spin back kick, step spin back kick, step behind hook kick, spin hook kick, step spin hook kick, and then a power break which is usually 3 boards with no spacers. Once you are first dan according to your age and size you are assigned a number of boards, teenage males are 7 boards while adult males are 9 boards for example. You are allowed three techniques and three attempts at each station. The number of boards you are given are a minimum and you can exceed it, if you want. There are special cases, for example for my fourth dan test I was only asked to do two break. A speed break of my choice (board held at only one end) and a four cement brick side kick. I ended up doing a speed ridge hand strike while holding the board myself. After board breaking the test is concluded but before the test has started you are expected to have turned in your 1000 word essay on a topic. My fourth dan paper was my personal approach to how to teach taekwondo.
  2. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    About two to three hours depending on the number of participants, which is generally small. Participants are active for all of that time, not on-off.

    Basics, Stepping, Combinations, Padwork, Step sparring, Shihap Kyorugi, Self Defence, Poomsae and Breaking are tested.

    The tasks to demonstrate are chosen by the examiners on the day, so the student needs to be ready for all eventualities, or they will fail.

    Self defence and step sparring must be realistic and meaningful.

    Sparring must demonstrate good knowledge and application of offensive and defensive principles.

    Breaking is the student's choice but must be appropriate for their level. All boards must be broken in one attempt.

    Poomsae must be demonstrated to a very high degree of competency in line with Kukkiwon standards per the 2006 ed Taekwondo Textbook, the Kukkiwon Education Centre and the latest sanctioned seminars. Those who compete may adopt the WTF competition standards.

    Students are always expected to demonstrate their ability to think and act decisively under pressure and when facing adversity, and failure here will fail the grading.

    Expectations are pretty high, and this is trained and drilled into students in the last 12 months leading up to the test.
    John Hulslander likes this.
  3. John Hulslander

    John Hulslander Active Member

    Our dan promotions last approx 1 hr for the candidate.
    First Dans are tested randomly on 17 Hyung.
    25 One steps. (self defense)
    2 Fights (preferably one with other first dan candidate and one with higher dan
    4 station breaking.
    Defense of thesis (age/education appropriate)

    Second - Fourth Dan
    Tested on gup forms at random (17 forms to choose from. Typically asked to do 2-4 depending on proficiency)
    Additional Dan forms (4 for second, 3 for third, 2 for fourth)
    Self-Defense demonstration
    2 Fights (with higher ranked dans)
    Breaking (approved by GM)
    Thesis defense

    Fifth Dan and higher
    Pre approval from GM- typically a fifth dan candidate will have to have promoted at least one student to first dan, preferably more.
    All Dan forms 17 gup, 11 dan forms or fifth and 2 per going forward)
    Thesis defense

    Eigth Dan and higher-??? ask me in 15 years.
  4. Matt

    Matt Member

    why are only a small selection of patterns tested? For us like I said after third dan we assume you know the colored belt patterns through teaching, but we still make you perform all the black belt patterns.
  5. John Hulslander

    John Hulslander Active Member

    Good question.
    After first dan only a small selection of gup forms are required because the candidate has had the responsibility in the 2 plus years of teaching the gups and has:
    1. already demonstrated knowledge of the gup forms when they tested for first dan
    2. been teaching gup forms for other students testing so MI or GM is aware of the higher dan candidates knowledge.

    I apologize if I was misleading, but when I tested for 2nd-6th dan I was required to perform all dan forms to date.
    That is for us, on my 6th dan test I was required to perform 3-4 gup forms including Bassai.
    I was required to perform all our dan forms to that point including
    Nahaiji forms (1-3)
    Sip Zu
    Jin Do
    Tae Bek
    Kong Sang Keung
    Ji On
    Sip Jin

    So that's what 16 forms altogether.
  6. Matt

    Matt Member

    Oh okay I understand, so it's kind of similar to why we allow third dans and higher to be exempt from color belt patterns because they should have the knowledge. So for my fourth dan test I performed....
    Kwang gae
    Pe Eun
    Gae Beck
    Ui Yam
    Choong Jang
    Chu je
    Sam il
    Yoo Sin

    and then three bo staff patterns, which we learn traditional karate patterns and some spin off patterns created by our master, and a sai pattern.
  7. truejim

    truejim Member

    At the school my son and I attend, the actual test is only about an hour long: run through all the forms you're supposed to know by this point, do a multi-station break, and do a couple rounds of two-on-one sparring. It's very choreographed (there's even a 3-hour rehearsal before the test), there's an audience, and invited masters to serve on the panel. That having been said...

    There are about four 4-hour long practice sessions leading up to the test (about 16 hours total)...if you don't do well at the early sessions, you're not invited back for the later sessions, and certainly not allowed to test. Even though the school doesn't characterize it this way, I think the practice sessions are the real "test". By they time you're allowed to test, they've already verified that you can do the things you're supposed to be able to do.

    The essay/oral part isn't done at the test, that's done at the followup award ceremony. You have to read your essay out-loud to the audience at the award ceremony.
  8. Matt

    Matt Member

    I have never heard of a type of testing set up this way and it intrigues me for several reasons.... But first; I posted this thread because although I am only 17 and a 4th dan I do plan on opening my own school hopefully sooner rather then later. I have no idea if you will be able to answer my questions but I will leave them here anyway and you can choose to answer them if you wish.
    1)if the test is "choreographed" then there is no real added pressure, does it feel like a "normal" class?
    2) Why are you tested only on patterns, breaking, and 2 vs 1 sparring? there are a lot more aspects to taekwondo.
    3)We hav a similar philosophy that a test should be a ceremony itself, you shouldn't be asked to do anything you haven't already done before, but doesn't the so called practice sessions take away from the actual test?
    4)This is more direct, but the masters who are invited, are they all masters in Taekwondo? other martial arts?
    5) Does everyone who gets invited to the test pass?

    I ask all these questions because I believe the way my school does test is good, but not great. I think there are ways to improve it, and I want to know those ways before I open the doors to my own school. I have been to other schools black belt test, meaning taken and graded, and I ave graded at my own schools black belt exams and I always feel like there should be slightly more. I have heard of masters making students run miles with tires around them, or doing 100 pushups in a minute, or doing self defense blind folded and with loud blasting music to distort the senses, I have seen schools where the techniques for board breaking are determined the day of the exam. I know my school has a lengthy exam but I have been to schools where black belt exam last 7 days -- I personally think it's too long -- but they cover everything possible, every little detail.
  9. Matt

    Matt Member

    Does your school have an oral or written section??
  10. Matt

    Matt Member

    My school under our old grandmaster who left to run the AAU in America, used to give a 100 multiple choice exam before the first dan black belt test. It tested everything, history of taekwondo, number of moves in a pattern, pattern and belt meanings, officiating rules, and more.
  11. truejim

    truejim Member

    1) First of all, some explanation about "choreographed". The school wants the test to proceed very quickly, so the "rehearsal" beforehand is a lot like a wedding rehearsal: "Alice will stand here, Betty will stand there, Carol will stand there" etc. "When you enter the dojang, you'll enter in-line already lined-up the way you'll be lined-up on the floor. When you leave at the end, you'll leave in reverse order." And, "For the sparring portion of the test, Alice and Betty will compete against Carol over in this corner, while David will square off against Earl and Fred over in this corner." So the rehearsal is really just telling everybody where to go, when, so that the test itself is just non-stop action: form, form, form, break, break, break, spar, spar, spar...with no wasted time at all.

    The test itself does not feel like a normal class. I think most of the students (myself included) are nervous because there's still always the chance to screw up. You're not *guaranteed* to pass, but you'd have to screw up pretty badly by this point not to pass. Bottom line: the test itself still feels special, nothing at all like a normal class. Normal classes are fun, and there's a sense of humor to them. (Our instructors have good senses of humor, and they inject that into classes.) Test day is all formality and seriousness, probably in part because the students don't know most of the judging panel.

    2) There are more aspects to taekwondo, but for whatever reason this school doesn't feel the need to test you on every little thing. As alluded to previously, this is less of a "test" and more of a "verification" -- you wouldn't be on the floor if they didn't already know you knew everything you're supposed to know.

    I think our school wants the test to have an audience. To have an audience, you can't make the test run for 3 hours -- audience members won't stick around for that long. So I suppose our masters have decided that having an audience is more important to them than testing every little thing, especially since they've already verified for themselves during the classes and the special practices sessions that you're ready.

    3) The practice sessions are grueling. Doing taekwondo for 4 hours straight, with only occasional water breaks, is exhausting.

    4) Our school is part of a small, local chain of 3 schools. So the panel that we test in front of is usually 2-3 masters from our chain plus one guest master from some other local school. All 5th dan or higher in taekwondo, generally.

    5) Not everybody necessarily passes. For instance, some people get so nervous, they seem to just forget everything they know. But it takes that level of screw-up to not pass.
  12. Matt

    Matt Member

  13. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    Not until testing for 5th Dan or higher, which is the Kukkiwon standard.

    It is desirable for a student to have written for our newsletter, website, or blog, or have published an article in the national Taekwondo press before first dan. It's not compulsory, but most do.

    Black belts choose their own specialisms. That may or may not include writing, depending on the student's individual strengths.

    As far as oral testing goes, not formally in dan gradings although the student is expected to know the names of the techniques they can perform and commands. Most people know at least rudimentary Korean too.

    It's worth bearing in mind that what is 'correct' or normal in your area for your club may not hold true all over the world. People do things differently all over, and different cultures drive different behaviours.
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2015
  14. Matt

    Matt Member

    Yes, I understand this completely which is why I'm so curious. Because when I open my own school I want to try and use the best methods possible that I've learned myself or have been taught by others.
    Gnarlie likes this.
  15. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    Example: Around 20 languages are spoken at our club, and English is not the main one. Most people speak English, but not all. It would perhaps be unfair to demand oral and written examination in such an environment. For 5th and above, a number of languages are acceptable for the thesis.

    Teaching is not in English.
  16. Matt

    Matt Member

    That makes a ton of sense, our school teaches in english and everyone speaks it.
  17. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    The same was true of my club in the UK, although no thesis was required there until 5th dan either - the reason being that gradings were national under British Taekwondo. As a 1st Keup, you would go with 150-200 other 1st Keups and do your grading in front if a panel of GMs. Too many people to demand a thesis from everyone. Fewer people make it to 5th dan, and that thesis is submitted to Kukkiwon for review and approval.

    Just for your info, such a national grading tests Poomsae, Sparring, Self Defence, One Step Sparring and Breaking. The student is probably in front of the panel for a total of 20-30 minutes. That's enough to tell if they meet the standard or not. The requirements are clearly communicated via seminars and published documentation, although there is still a significant failure rate.
  18. Matt

    Matt Member

    Yeah I realize that most national standards are tested in a very small amount of time. But, personally I think black belt tests should be at the lest 3 hours of floor time, because I'd expect a black belt to show their command of basically everything they know.
  19. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    They can do that in 20 minutes IMO, if the test is efficient, and if their instructor has observed their progress in the run-up to the test.

    I don't need to see three hours of someone's Taekwondo to be able to make a judgment on their standards.

    IMO one or two hours is more than enough, depending on the number of participants.

    Testing should be just that IMO - testing a random sample of what they know in each discipline, rather than a demonstration of absolutely everything that they know. That's just not an effective use of time, especially when the panel is made up of eighth and ninth dans.

    Randomly test each discipline, and any weaknesses will make themselves apparent. Weak areas can then be explored in more detail if necessary.

    I used to be an auditor, and there's no way any company would have allowed me to spend my time checking every single work item that someone had done. Of course they would have me check a sample group of a size that was statistically representative of the overall population. Doing more is a waste of time as it does nothing to improve confidence in the result of the test beyond that provided by the original sample. The same is true of Taekwondo. After observing a sample of each discipline, the examiner can make a judgment. Observing more does nothing to improve confidence in the result - statistically speaking.

    I suppose it depends what you want to test. A short test is enough for knowledge and technique - and spirit too, depending on the difficulty of the tasks assigned. If you want to test spirit via a physical beasting, then a longer test is necessary. But IMO that physical conditioning should be an element of class anyway and should not need to be tested, it should be a given.
  20. Matt

    Matt Member

    I understand your view on the subject, but because of my discipline and personal training I think you should prove all your knowledge at black belt exams. Because as you improve through color belts we make you always start with the same thing middle punch in a sitting/horse stance. And that os the first thing we do at our black belt exams too. Everyone does everything they should be able to, which is why for color belt test we test from white belts testing for yellow up to red belts testing for red with stripe or high red. Everyone on the floor starts at the same point -- step round kick from side fighting stance -- and by the end only the red belt are on the floor doing lets say like rear leg round kick, followed by a fast double round kick, followed by a spin hook kick, land with the kicking foot behind you, then spin into a defensive 360 degree round kick. That way as the test progresses you can see how much each belt has learned.

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