Belt testings are just one of those things that everyone does differently. The Taekwon-Do Encyclopedia has requirements laid out, but most schools do those requirements and then some. They add their own flavor to it.

I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with having a few more expectations than the book does for your students when it comes to their belt testing, but I have to draw the line when it comes to using testing as a tool for punishment, or to embarrass someone for a lack of progress in their training.

And YES, it does happen.

It’s usually well intentioned and the result of a frustrated instructor who’s not getting the job done.

Let me explain.

By the time a student is standing on the floor in front of a testing panel, it should be abundantly clear to you (the instructor), the student, and the student’s family that he or she is ready and prepared to test. Now, this is no guarantee that the student will automatically pass – they still have to perform and demonstrate their skills before the testing panel, but you know and they know that they are prepared.

There will be instances where students will fail, but they will be minimal and will serve as a lesson to the student about what it takes to prepare for and to perform when it counts, whether it’s in Taekwon-Do, work, school or anywhere else in life they want to succeed.

That kind of lesson serves the student, develops character and will support them later in life.

Unfortunately, some instructors schedule testing,  assume that the students will be ready and expect everyone to test every time. This is fine if the instructor is doing their job and everyone is prepared. It becomes a problem when the instructor uses testing as an opportunity to make an example of the student(s) who wasn’t prepared and then blames the student for the situation they’re in.

Does the student have some responsibility in this situation? Yes. However, the instructor’s job is prepare the student for the test. Your student’s results are your results. If there’s a breakdown in students being prepared to test and you’re looking for reasons why, the first thing you need to do is to take a look in the mirror.

It’s your responsibility to make sure your students are prepared to test.

The only reasons an instructor would knowingly allow someone who is unprepared to test would be to either intentionally embarrass the student by setting them up to fail in a big way or to collect an extra testing fee. Both are inconsistent with our tenets and our oath.

Not only is that inconsistent with what Taekwon-Do stands for, it’s a great way to lose students… FAST!

No one wants to be in a school where they are in constant fear of being embarrassed or taken advantage of.

Testing should FUN! Testing is that big day where you demonstrate to your instructor, your school, your friends and your family all the new skills you’ve learned. Students should leave testing with an extraordinary sense of accomplishment and pride, excited to take on what’s next in their training. They get acknowledged, recognized and rewarded with their new rank.

I’ve seen some schools go as far as having a party after testing where belts and certificates are awarded, making it an even bigger deal when they move up in rank.

Take a look at how you run your testings.

What can you do to make it more of an event, to make it more exciting for the students so that they want to be there and that they are proud to invite their friends and family?

It is very common for me to speak with the friends and family members who came to watch a testing, and just from what they saw at testing, they wanted to join!

There are very few events like testing (when done well), where the essence of Taekwon-Do is in the air.

Guests see examples of all ranks, they see the tenets in action, they see the sense of community among the students and they see discipline and respect at every turn. That is very attractive to a parent looking for something for their child to participate in or even for an adult considering training.