A grading is a test or belt promotion demonstration that shows a student is ready to move from one belt level to the next.
When it is time for students to move from one belt level to the next, we will have what is called a “grading”, “testing”, or “belt promotion”. Belt promotion is based on 3 criteria:
- Knowledge of the belt criteria
- Having a good attitude in class
Each student’s ability to perform the belt criteria will be different. Regular attendance sets you up for success. During review nights we assess your knowledge of the criteria. We also look to see if you are coming to class with a positive attitude and are doing your best.
Students will only receive a grading sheet after successfully completing the review classes. Although grading is not guaranteed, we don’t hand out the sheets without being confident that the student will be okay on the day of. The average student is likely to grade between 1 and 3 times a year depending on the belt level and training schedule of the student.
When will I grade?
The timeline for grading will be different from school to school as well as from student to student. This is based on the club’s history, the instructor’s expectations, and the amount of training the student does.
In general, lower belt students will grade every 3-6 months and higher belts will grade every 5-12 months. Black belts will have larger time gaps between dan rankings.
Who decides when I grade?
Your instructor will decide if you’re ready to go for your grading based on the expectations set by your club and style. Some martial arts clubs will have other instructors (perhaps your dojo’s head instructor or high-ranking black belt in your style) that they bring in specifically to lead the gradings.
“I think I’m ready but my instructor didn’t give me a grading sheet. What do I do?”
There is no set timeline for grading and each person is on their own journey through the ranks. It can be hard when your peers get their grading sheets but you don’t. You may not be ready to grade because you don’t have enough attendance, you may not have acquired the appropriate skill level, or you may be coming to class with a negative attitude.
If you’ve been stuck at the same belt level for a long time and you feel that you have been put on hold it’s okay to ask what you can do to progress more quickly. It’s not okay to tell your instructor when you think you’re ready or tell them that they’re making a mistake in not testing you.
Here are some dos and don’ts:
- Don’t quit.
- Don’t have demand (or have your parent demand) that you grade.
- Don’t compare yourself to others.
- Do ask what you can work on to learn more of your belt criteria.
- Do practice at home.
- Do come to class with a positive attitude.
When you’re working towards mastering the martial arts you’re playing the long game. Practice patience. It can feel like a long time to get to black belt but once you’re there you’ll discover it’s only the beginning.