I think belt testing is a great concept. Too often we are focused on achieving something and not celebrating the results. The material can only fulfill you to an extent. I like belt testing for that reason. I don’t like belt testing fees, which may sound strange. I remember testing for my black belt and it was $300, that is a lot of money for a belt.
The experience of my belt test, however, was worth something. I can’t put a price on it. In fact, if you wanted to trade any of the experiences I had in the martial arts for money I would decline. Seeing how far I can push myself in that type of environment is very positive, and I think it is positive for the kids too. Positive reinforcement can only go so far, and sometimes you have to see how much someone can take.
We test our kids in class before we let them test. I do not know about you, but if I went to my daughter’s piano performance and she was awful I would be pretty upset at the teacher. Well I would be, if I wasn’t honest about how my daughter’s attitude is towards most things. The goal is to make sure when you see your child perform at testing they are already promoted by us, they are just showing parents their skills and getting the experience of testing. Parents never give me a hard time when I fail their kids. They either trust me or they don’t. Usually by the time their kid tests they trust me. There is rarely an in-between. A child has to royally blow it for me to not pass them at testing. Which on average happens about 4-5 times a year.
So how does martial arts teach honesty? Well to be honest (my favorite phrase I say when I am about to upset someone) it regularly does not. When you have kids who earn something like a black belt after a few years of training and believe that their training mattered because of attendance I laugh. Your attendance can mean you accumulated skill, but in that situation it usually does not.
My oldest daughter asks me after every class how she did, and I always say let’s talk about it later. She is not focused on what she is doing half the time, not because she is a bad child or has ADD, she does not care like me. She is five, I am trying to get her to push herself, she is trying to imagine what she would look like in that new Frozen dress she saw on TV. If I promoted her every time she had enough stripes she would never learn what she is capable of if she tried her best. Too often martial arts schools promote based on attendance only.
I was so surprised to realize how little I understood about honesty. Not so much being honest in my speech… when it comes to confrontation, more people would appreciate it if I was less honest. It is being honest around my friends and those close to me that is difficult. I was bullied as a kid, it left a lasting impression. It made me not want to say how I really felt, conform to the group. This is a useful skill, but not appropriate when it is something that keeps you up at night. Honesty can set you free. When you are honest with where you are it doesn’t matter what happened a year ago, the tragedy of your life can be a tragedy, but that does not mean you cannot accept where you are and move forward. Being able to adjust your mindset to grow has to start with not deceiving yourself. If you don’t believe what you are saying people will sense it.