Written by Maria Van Dessel
Every three months, they come around again. They are eagerly anticipated by some, dreaded by others, ignored by some, taken in stride by others. Afterwards, some people find themselves changed; others find that not much is different. I am speaking of promotion tests. Kanreikai Karate tests for promotion in rank four times a year. As each test approaches, some people increase their class attendance. Some just keep to the same steady schedule. Some people feverishly practice their kata before and after class. Some already know the kata for the next rank. Some people anxiously ask all of their seniors and senseis whether or not they are ready to test. Others feel they know the answer.
Are promotion tests necessary? The fact is, instructors know well whether or not their students are ready for the next rank. We watch them class after class and evaluate their understanding of the basics. We evaluate their progress from week to week, month to month. We have a sense of what we think students of a particular rank should look like and also a sense of what it is possible for the individual students in our classes to achieve.
It would be easy enough to simply determine when each person was ready to advance and to promote them on the basics of such readiness. Such promotions would accurately reflect a student’s skills and progress. So why subject people to promotion tests?
An upcoming promotion test provokes much soul searching. As students discuss whether to test amongst themselves, they are clarifying to themselves what they feel a certain rank means. For some, it means little — just another color belt to wear. But to many students, this type of discussion brings them to a sense of goal; they are inspired to examine their skills and accomplishments and to create a model in their heads of what they would like to look like as a blue belt, a green belt, a first kyu.
The creation of such models can serve as both inspiration and reward — inspiration as the student tries to match their image in the mirror with that “ideal” of the next rank up, and reward as said image more closely approaches that ideal.
Instructors, too, must take stock as a promotion test approaches. We evaluate what each student has accomplished in the context of what they are capable of accomplishing. Some students need to be encouraged to test; some need to be told that they will have to wait. And as we do so, we evaluate our teaching.
Have we done what was necessary to prepare students for different ranks? Have we pushed those who needed pushing? Our students reflect our teaching, and as instructors, we do well to evaluate them honestly.
Promotion tests, then, serve as a time of reflection — a time for students to reflect on their own effort and progress, and a time for instructors to reflect on how we seek to build Kanreikai Karate. Without such periodic taking stock, it is difficult to clearly see how far we have come — and how far it is yet possible to go.
So when the next promotion test rolls around, remember that you are being tested not just on promotion day itself. The weeks, the months, and, in time, the years of effort and sweat that have gone into bringing you to test day are being evaluated. The test itself is more of a demonstration of the work that you — and your instructors — have already done.