Recently a discussion came about that questioned rank and time in rank. How does rank work? When can I test again? Do I have to wait [blank] years before I test again? These are standard questions. How long they get asked is the real concern.

During the first year or so is pretty common. As students try to understand the curriculum and what the system requires, they start looking ahead wondering when things are going to happen. Another aspect in asking is because of the goal setting that our society seems to have. Goal setting is an important and excellent method of achieving success.

The glitch is when the goal is really just achieving things. Goals that don’t lead to a greater plan are time wasting and selfish. When the goal is achieved but doesn’t have value, then the goal was unnecessary. This one struck me recently when I saw a student promoted to 2nd Dan stuff his certificate into his gear bag after it was presented. If the certificate with all of the time, effort, and commitment is not valued as the representation of earning the goal, it was all a waste.

Thrift store belt sale.

It is this long term goal that is truly the journey. Training in a martial art is long and demanding. This is why I have place the value on WHO has signed my certificate over what organization is involved. Yes, I’ve got Dan certificates from the Kukkiwon, the World Taekwondo headquarters, but they mean less to me than those signed by my teachers. The acknowledgement of my teachers has value beyond any organization who have never met me nor seen my abilities.I’m not completely sure how this has come about but it has stuck with me ever since learning what the symbols on the original Karate North patch. I’m not happy nor accepting of being promoted by just anyone, even though their rank has been duly earned by another organization or teacher.

This leads to another step that proper students never ask about testing. In the past, it was not unusual that a teacher would present a new belt randomly during a class. There wasn’t a formal testing nor fancy graduation performance. It was simply that you’ve gained enough knowledge to move to the next step. There weren’t certificates then either.

Students that ask to test are never actually ready. This is a quiet piece of ego showing up that makes people believe that they are further on their journey than truly practiced. I’ve long held that if you think you’re ready to test, you aren’t. Those who are following their journey aren’t interested in rank, they just train.

This leads to the last portion of this post. “I’ve been [blank] rank but my years of training mean that I should be another rank higher.” This illustrates the goal of the student’s training just as asking to test does. If you take the old school Taekwondo format, it should be a minimum of 10 years to 4th Dan. This rank is often viewed automatically as a Senior Instructor or Master, yet fails today because many at this rank don’t teach. They aren’t in a regular teaching schedule in their home school nor have they started a school of their own. So, how does someone hold a title or position if they don’t teach?

I disagree with titles being assigned automatically with rank. I prescribe to the theory that there are only two ways to get a title. The first is that your teacher uses it when referring to you in front of students and peers. The second is when your students start referring to by the title. No one automatically deserves a title! Physical techniques are only 10% of any art and a master knows much more than that!

In the end, the martial arts journey should never be about rank or titles or trophies/awards! The journey should be about becoming a better person and helping…serving…others achieve their goals. Anything other is ego and selfish.

Author: Master Robert Frankovich

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