Why do we have test fees?
The first reason that we use test fees is that we recognize that people learn and develop according to their schedule, not ours. It is most important the the student understands what they are trying to accomplish as they work toward promotions. Since the physical techniques are only 10% of an art, a student may stay at a rank longer in order to develop more of the intellectual/practical knowledge being presented. One of the difficulties in promoting students is to recognize that they have learned all that they can from the current rank. They may need to push of the next rank to grow further. There isn’t anything wrong with making a student “grow into” their rank. Often, if test fees are built into the tuition, the tendency is to have students test regularly regardless of their preparedness. Unfortunately, this leads to students who are not qualified to hold their new rank and the creation of belt mills churning out countless numbers of black belts.
The next reason is Reputation. I have stated many times that I will let my students perform against those 2-3 ranks higher because I have that much belief in their skills. I have tried to make sure that all students learn the most that they are capable. The time that I’ve spent developing knowledge beyond the mere patterns and steps are readily given to each student. I make every attempt to get my students to understand the curriculum faster and easier than what I did. I feel that is my job. Now add in the fact that I have created a very large non-sport curriculum, which takes 4-5 years for an adult to complete (and longer for children). They truly earn their ranks. In fact, it has been a great personal struggle to accept that some school curricula are designed to reach Chodan (1st Dan Black Belt) in two years. What finally made it acceptable is when I looked at what these curricula intended to accomplish. A two year Chodan has a good basic knowledge of the art. This would be equal to graduating high school. Since I am expecting more, the four year Chodan may be closer to having a Bachelor’s degree. This makes it tough on the young students in class. If you ask any of them, they will tell you that there are no kids in class. There are only students. They must do the same curriculum. Some of the understanding will take longer to develop but that is why no one under 12 can earn a Chodan and no one under 16 can earn an Eedan. Not all black belts are equal but all should be respected.
Lastly, our culture and society are different from that of where the arts come from. Our society has created a complete industry around teaching the martial arts and developing the sport aspects. This means that it is a business and instructors are trying to pay their bills with the money collected from teaching. The unfortunate side is that there is no control over the industry and it has taken advantage of many people. There are stories (from people I have direct contact with) of outrageous tuition costs and test fees. There have been enough that it makes me think our industry is full of “used car salesmen”.
Originally, there wasn’t a fee for promotions but then again the only promotion that mattered was to Chodan. This promotion was honored by giving a gift to your teacher. It was something of value that you could afford/create and represented the value of the knowledge that you received from your teacher. When you consider that a bushel of rice may have cost a year’s salary, something simple could have great value…meaning…to the student giving it. What is your martial arts education worth to you? Have you expressed it to your teacher(s)?
Yes, this post comes out as we have a Taekwondo promotion test today. The thought came up, though, because I really dislike the business side of teaching. Please consider liking and sharing! Thanks!
Author: Master Robert Frankovich
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