Legend has it that during the ancient practices of martial arts, students wore white belts or sashes around their waists to hold their practice suits together. As time progressed, the white belt became soiled, becoming darker with each layer of experience. It was forbidden to wash the belt for fear that the knowledge it represented would wash away. The belt grew naturally darker with time, eventually becoming black signifying a high level of experience in its holder. Today, students participate in gradings at which their skill level is tested and, if successful, they advance to a higher rank. The ranks are often represented by color belts until black belt level is achieved, at which time the journey changes but continues. The multitude of martial arts styles in the world approach the advancement procedure in different ways. The most commonly recognized fashion is through the formal testing process.
Why test? Regular assessment of a student’s progression through their martial art ladder of success is important for several reasons. Most commonly, gradings are used as incentive for students to apply themselves and work hard learning their skills on a long-term, consistent basis. Most importantly, however, gradings are where students can exhibit the skills they have learned in class, apply them to physical and mental challenges, and demonstrate successful completion of the curriculum required. If unsuccessful, they learn that returning to the classroom to overcome challenges is an important part of life in the dojo and in the world. Positive character development is a necessary aspect of a legitimate, traditional martial arts curriculum. Testing helps reinforce those values, while motivating students toward continued excellence.
Grading day is a proud day in the life of a martial arts instructor and a student. Fear becomes courage, the weak become stronger, and the strong become wiser. Shop well and do your research in order to find a legitimate school with honorable Instructors. The result will be an education and positive experience to last a lifetime.