Instructor Test Guidelines
The following guidelines have been developed to assist the instructor in designing and administering a test for a given rank at a regional test. Only actively teaching black belts are eligible to give a test. Giving a test should be considered an honor.
Our goal as testers is to make it a positive experience for all students from a mental and spiritual standpoint. We should give each candidate every chance to succeed and pass their test.
Create a test that is comprehensive of the current rank requirement. Make the test both flexible and varied. For example: Do kicks, then hands, then kata, applications, flying kicks, philosophy. Don't do a thousand kicks then expect to see a good kata. Don't do 100 pushups and then expect weapons to look good. Develop the test with a 1 hour and 30‐minute schedule in mind.
For Brown Belt and up, you can plan a 2‐hour test. Estimate the time for each section of the test to make sure you can complete the test and fully evaluate the candidates. Include time to deviate from your test if you see something (e.g. a kick during a combination) that needs to be further evaluated individually).
Most importantly, make the test fun, challenging, and a positive experience for the candidate, their dojo, and their families.
During the test keep the following in mind:
• Start test with a warmup and for advanced ranks, have them perform weapons kata at least once before having them break boards. Do this in case of a minor hand injury during breaking then at least weapons have been evaluated.
• Evaluate the candidates early by watching warm‐ups. Look for stances, transitions, and posture.
• Conduct testing of all techniques and katas for the rank you are testing FIRST.
• Do not teach! You should not have to describe how to do a technique. If they need to be taught during the test, then they do not know the technique.
• If you are leading the test, have assistants keep the candidate evaluation forms and tell them comments to add so you can focus on administering the test. Assistants should be actively involved.
• The students must demonstrate their katas/ combos/ mat work etc. at performance levels.
• Be compassionate. Do not give overtly negative or harsh comments to a student. Encouragement is much more effective.
• Always focus on fundamentals at every level: load up on blocks, set up on stances, kick clean and pull back, balance, and weapons (precision, angles, follow through)
• Don't go backwards and test 2 or 3 levels below (unless it's for you to determine whether it is a fail or probation).
• If the student clearly doesn’t know something, do not help. Discomfort is good. This will teach the student to prepare better next time.
• DO NOT make people repeat something they cannot fix during the test. If you find an unfixable fundamental problem, write it down and move forward. Only write down key fundamentals that they cannot fix while testing.
• For advanced ranks (Brown Belt and up), you may elect to add additional challenges. However, they must be reasonable and achievable. You can usually tell after watching the candidates for a while.
• Demonstration and understanding of principles are important at higher ranks. They should know concepts, i.e. center line principle, kuzushi, sliding, soft style, reaction hand. Unlike at 1‐ or 2‐green stripe, where a student is just getting their body use to performing martial arts, when they have been training for a few years, they should understand why they are doing technique and it should be evident in their performance.
• All individuals must be evaluated based on their abilities and background (don't compare a 50‐year‐old to an 18‐year‐old). Grade students based on each individual’s potential. This is critical—some people can perform, some can’t. We hope that one day, these students will be teachers. It is critical that they understand and know how to explain what they are doing.
• Consider asking the candidates questions about how to perform a technique, foot position, striking surface, or describe a stance.
• The basic 1‐green stripe through green belt techniques should be at an “A” level for all candidates testing for Brown belt and up.
• Remember that people learn and understand differently. Not everyone does well with verbal commands. Be verbal, visual, and tactile.
• If a student performs poorly and you are considering failing them, consult with the senior instructor assisting you on the test. If in agreement, consult with the student’s instructor prior to notifying the student. Deliver any probation or fail decision in an encouraging manner.
• Senior instructors are floating around and directly assisting each test. These instructors are evaluating both the candidates and the tester and are available to assist if you have a question or need another opinion on a candidate. Here in the North Florida region, we are lucky to have GMQ, but he should not be asked to evaluate a candidate. He is busy being the Head of Style at the test so only ask the designated senior instructor or a Master for assistance.
In your evaluation of and discussions with the testing candidates, consider:
• The rank of one green stripe is an introduction to Cuong Nhu and all comments should be given to start them on a productive training path.
• Color belt changes are significant and require more scrutiny than a stripe test. Color belt changes are a bit more comprehensive in the testing requirements while stripe testing is more compartmentalized.
• Two black stripes are comprehensive of the entire curriculum and test the candidate’s readiness to be a black belt candidate.
• Each color belt change and 2‐black stripes signifies a milestone achievement that shows the students competency and mastery of previous techniques over their years of training. When we do not see a brown belt that is more competent than a green belt, something has gone wrong in their development.
As instructors, we try to prepare our students to succeed to the best of their abilities. Testing is a way to evaluate our competency in that effort. Testers, do not prepare a test with the intent to fail students, we want them to succeed.