True Confidence vs False Confidence

True Confidence vs False Confidence

We are surprised to find some martial arts schools don’t actually test their students for their ranks, they just give it to them after they have attended a certain number of classes. Some don’t ever fail anyone or hold them back for a belt, and no matter how inappropriate a student’s behavior is, they will never kick them out or demote them. Since we do all of these things, I thought I should explain why.

First, this is a martial arts school. This is not a martial arts amusement center. In school, students are expected to work and to pass, and if they don’t, they face consequences. The tradition of martial arts is based on military traditions and that means, rank is earned and can be revoked. We have a code we recite in class and it is more than just something we say, it is the heart of how we try to live our lives and how we guide our students. No one has to agree with our code, but to earn a Black Belt in this school, they must show that they try to live by the guidelines of that code.

Now we sincerely try not to fail anyone. We put detailed procedures in place so we can know way ahead of time if a student needs extra help and then we provide that extra help. We award tips each month to denote that the student has successfully performed a portion of their required curriculum. If they don’t earn the tip, they can try again after working some more and maybe getting some private work with an instructor. If we are nearing graduation day, which occurs every three months, and a student doesn't have all their tips, then we work hard to get them ready or we will not test them. It insures we are not embarrassing them in front of their family and peers. Sometimes one will slip through and not be prepared enough to pass. We will get them a quick booster class and try again right away. We may even pass them with the understanding that they have to do that section of their test again in the near future. Every so often, we will purposefully test a student we know isn’t going to pass. It seems mean, but to the student who thinks they know everything and hasn’t put forth any effort, it is often the only wake-up call that will motivate them and give them the reality check they need. They cannot just coast through life and everything is not just going to be handed to them. We are preparing them for that.

We don’t have to be as strict about it as we had to be in the past. We are a Black Belt school, meaning we are far less concerned with the lower belt ranks and far more concerned with the students going for Black Belt. Today we have a pre-Black Belt rank called Red Senior. This belt is worn for a minimum of one year. During that year, the student will retest on 100% of our pre-Black Belt rank curriculum. From beginner through intermediate and all advanced material. While Red Senior focuses a lot on the material, it also focuses on other things too. Red Seniors are observed constantly and given specific guidance on not just technique, but on the five Black Belt Qualities of Power, Speed, Balance, Focus and Intensity. We also watch closely to make sure they are showing the right Black Belt attitude. We look for great work ethic, self discipline, a strong dedication as well as setting the right example for other students. We will not soil the name of our school or disrespect the traditions and ethics of the martial arts by promoting someone to Black Belt who doesn’t deserve it.

So what are the benefits to actually testing students, and sometimes not passing them as opposed to just giving them their rank and keeping them happy?

When a student is awarded anything, praise from an instructor, a tip on their belt, a trophy at a tournament, a good grade on their report card, it should be a reflection of the work they put into it. If all the students get perfect scores, the same tip, the same “participation” trophy, even though they put in differing amounts of effort, then there is no real encouragement to work harder.

Now, if EVERYONE works hard, achieves at a high level, and EVERYONE earns a tip, that’s great. But let’s think about the lazy kid who showed up to class every week, but didn’t put any effort into anything and didn’t even work to learn the material. If he earns a tip, then why should he EVER try harder and what type of respect are we showing the rest of the students who worked their butts off to earn the same tip/belt/trophy. We award effort, not skill so if a student has limitations and is never going to be able to do a flying side kick or a tornado kick, but still puts in his time and effort, he deserves the award, tip, belt, praise and we happily give it to them.

So it’s for a work ethic and to show respect, right? Well, yes, but it’s more than that. Most people don’t have a clue about martial arts. They just want their kid to look cute in the uniform and have some fun learning some kicks and punches. These are the parents that think we take martial arts and ourselves way too seriously, or maybe they just don’t know any differently. But the thing that all martial arts schools are supposed to be providing, more than anything else, is a sense of TRUE confidence.

My students are tested as realistically as we can safely test them. My students might not pass, especially if it’s that one kid not trying and he needs a wake-up call that he isn’t going to just coast through this world and have everything provided for him. My students are taught techniques that have been used in real life, not just taught because “tradition” says to teach them. My students will have a TRUE sense of confidence at Black Belt. They will have developed skills that they will KNOW they can count on. This is no false sense of confidence based on earning participation belts or tips. My students earn it.



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