What is a Black Belt Test Like? | ART OF ONE DOJO

The black belt.

The long-coveted wardrobe accessory.

Sought after by many, but achieved by few.

This rank varies greatly from art to art, with different requirements and sometimes

it comes in different forms, and if you're currently training in the art, or you're thinking

about starting, you might be asking yourself, "What is the black belt test like?"

There are two points I would like to make.

The first is that the black belt itself is simply a piece of cloth that holds together

your uniform; however, in the context of this video it represents the milestone and achievement

of many years of work and training in martial arts.

Also, there are many times in this video I refer to our children testing for their black


This is a junior black belt and is not the same as an adult black belt.

The junior black belt rank is simply to mark the ending of their children's curriculum,

which typically takes four to five years.

After which they begin their adult curriculum, which is another four years or more; however,

they are still expected to go through a vigorous testing process to earn this so that they

respect even this level that they've earned.

First of all, I'm not talking about McDojos, or schools that are simply belt factories

where you go for a year, pay a fee, perform a 50 minute test, and you're done.

I'm talking about legitimate schools that after you've spent four years or more working

for your belt.

Of course, every school and every art is going to be very different and have different procedures

and requirements, but here are some general things to prepare yourself and generally what

you can expect.

First thing to know is you need to be patient, you know, earning a legitimate black belt

is a lot of work and it takes time.

You're not going to achieve it overnight.

It's something if it's really worth having, you're going to have to work for it, so be


Now that being said, a black belt test, usually you've got months to prepare for.

A lot of schools, at least the schools I'm familiar with, will hold black belt tests

twice a year, usually in summer and the winter, at the end of the year.

Other schools could be different.

Some do them whenever students are ready.

Sometimes it's just once a year.

There's even school that, if it's part of a hierarchy when it's time for your black

belt test, you actually go up to the head school, or the head dojo and do a large test.

That's not uncommon, but you have time to prepare, so usually you know if you're going

to test in the summer, you'd usually know by the beginning of the year, so you've got

three, four months to just actually prepare yourself for it, and I really recommend you

use that time.

Don't just sit around and be like, "Okay, well I'll just worry about it the week before



It takes work, dedication.

Use that time to prepare yourself.

Now here's something else, too.

You're going to be nervous, or most likely.

We do test twice a year for our kids, and even our best students, we see them the weeks

leading up to the test they're a nervous wreck.

They're tense, they're tightened up.

They're worried that they're not going to pass.

That's normal because, again, if you've spent years building up to this moment, that could

be a lot of pressure, so if you feel nervous that's fine.

Find ways to calm yourself.

Working out helps, you know, just put that energy towards your test and try to make something

positive out of it.

It's okay to be nervous, that just means you care.

Now, that being said, look at it this way.

If you're testing for your black belt.

If your instructor told you, "Okay, summer's coming up.

You'll be testing for your black belt."

Your instructor's not going to sign you up for a test if he doesn't think you're going

to be ready.

If you're in a true school where the instructor cares about your teaching and your skill,

they're going to know if you're ready or not, probably usually before you do.

So, just know that, if you are testing, you've already passed the first part of it, that

you've got your instructor's approval to go forward.

Again, it's perfectly normal to be nervous, but just know that you've already passed the

first part of it.

Just being scheduled for a test is a huge deal.

Now, build up your endurance.

Most tests that I've seen require a physical fitness test, and that's usually what starts

it, so if you've got these months to prepare, work out, run, jog, do calisthenics, cardio,

build up your endurance, you're gonna need it.

Many tests last for hours and when you start off with workouts ... like okay, for example

in our schools, even with our kids, they do two miles of running.

They do a hundred pushups, a hundred sit ups, a hundred jumping jacks.

They do a ton of workouts before the actual test even begins because we want to see where

they are in the fitness level.

If they can't pass that part of it, well then they're not ready.

So, you've got the time, work on your endurance.

Trust me.

You're going to need it.

Study, study, study.

I don't care what art you're in, know your material.

Again, don't just wait til the last minute and feel your way through it.

You can't overstudy for a black belt test, you know, you want to be ready in every way

because sometimes there'll be questions and answers.

Some schools will quiz you.

Some schools have written tests.

So, know your material first and foremost.

Also, if possible, find out the format of the test ahead of time.

If this is the first time you're experiencing the black belt test, talk to the instructor.

Maybe they'll tell you what you can expect.

They might not, but if you can, try to find out the format.

For example, we here at the school that we teach with the children, their format is,

they come in in the mornings, it's usually on a weekend, and they do all their calisthenics,

their jogging, their running, pushups, all their hardcore workouts.

They get a little bit of a break and they put the uniforms on, then we come in the class.

We do more warm ups.

We kind of do like little kick drills, punching drills, blocking drills.

We do all that in the air.

They kind of warm them up, get them moving again.

Then we do their self defense techniques.

They'll do it in the air to demonstrate they know it.

We'll run through their whole list, the curriculum that they're testing on.

Then they'll apply it on a partner and do the same thing again to show application.

After that they do their forms or their katas.

Then after that they'll do some more workouts, kind of get the blood going again, you know,

more jumping jacks, more pushups, more sit ups.

Then, we go into sparring, and this is where you really see that heart of these kids is

that if they still have that energy, and I'd tell you right now, every time we get to this

point, they are gassed, but they push themselves and they do it.

I've never seen dedication in a child four hours into a test sparring his little butt

off because he's got everything on the line for him.

So, know the format, know what to expect, don't think it's going to be an hour and be

surprised when you show up and it's half the day, okay?

Know what you're getting into and do your best to prepare for it.

Now, also going to that, it could be multiple hours, but very often black belt tests take

place over the course of multiple days.

My personal test, when I tested back in 1997, we did like ceremony for the actual tests,

but the weeks leading up to that, we were testing in fragments.

We did all of our workouts.

We did all of our hundreds of pushups and sit ups and all that, and our jogging.

We did all of our self defense.

We worked with our instructor and our group hours a day for weeks leading up to the tests.

That's kind of where some of the real test is.

That's where the instructor knows you know your material.

It's okay to be nervous at the ceremony.

You got a lot of people watching sometimes.

You got the pressure's on, but the time leading up to that test, your instructor's going to

actually watch you, see how you think, see how you react, how you formulate.

It's going to be the time where you are actually applying it and not worrying about the test

part of itself.

So, that is a big part of the test, the days leading up to it.

Also, if your nerves get the best of you, it's very easy to forget what you're doing.

Think on your feet.

I know in kenpo we have a lot of prechoreographed techniques, which demonstrate certain principles.

Of course, there's many ways you could do it.

A fight's not going to be choreographed.

Nothing's going to go as planned, so you want to be able to understand your material and

think on your feet.

We encourage this with the kids all the time.

I tell them, "If you mess up.

If you step wrong, that's fine.

Don't stop and tell your partner, 'No, you should have done this,' or try to reset it,

go with it."

I mean, something happened in the moment, you have to adapt.

To me, that's a big part of what I watch for with these kids.

For example, one of the last tests we did, the kid's partner stepped the wrong way, and

of course, they weren't in the position that they should have been for the technique to


Instead of the candid freezing going, "Oh, what do I do?"

they adjusted their body, they threw a different kick and they kind of reset the person in

the position they wanted.

So that's what I want to see.

Keep that in mind.

You don't have to be ... usually, again, depends on your school, you don't always have to be

exactly perfect, perfect, perfect.

Things go wrong.

Just be ready that if something does go wrong or unexpected that you can adapt to it on

the fly.

A lot of schools that carries a lot of weight.

There's also board breaking.

Some schools, particularly karate schools, will have board breaking just to kind of show

a feat of strength.

We do it for the kids as more of a confidence thing, you know?

We don't have them breaking concrete blocks or anything like that, but it's something

fun for them to do once they've done all the hard part, it's a good way to let out some


It's something that nervous energy, board breaking.

Single board, they crack it, they get that big snap, we give them the board, the smile's

on the face, it's great.

They also make rebreakable boards that you could reset and use over and over and over.

Good for practicing.

This is the time where you want to put your hundred and fifty percent effort forward.

Make it an event, okay?

This is where it all culminates too.

You've worked so hard for this point, so just do your best at it.

Be in the moment.

Anything that's happening in your life, just kind of leave it outside the door.

This is your moment, focus on it, and enjoy it because, I'll tell you right now, once

it's done, the after feeling, you're going to be extremely happy, and then you're going

to be extremely exhausted, and then you're going to be relieved.

The pressure will come right off your shoulders.

So what is a black belt test like?

Well, if you're serious about your art training, it is, in short, an amazing experience.

It could be a rollercoaster of emotions, but the sense of accomplishment is something you're

never going to forget, and it opens the door to a whole new range of training.

Now what if you don't pass?

Then this is an opportunity to ask yourself why.

Did you know the material well enough?

Were you unable to pass the physical fitness?

I've seen people fail tests based on their attitude alone.

They thought they were being funny, and cocky, and took the test for granted.

That's not the time to do that, okay?

Talk to your instructor about what needs to be worked on and they will usually give you

a reason for why they held you back.

Then, once you know, get back to work, work on it, work on it, work on it, and prepare

for the next test because you can always test again.

It's just a chance to improve.

Remember earning your black belt means that you've mastered the basics of the art and

you have demonstrated an understanding of the material, but it does not mean your training

is over.

There are many ranks of black belts and there's always something new to learn.

So I want to hear from all of you.

Tell me below about your black belt test experiences or how you're currently working towards it.

If you're taking another art, does it even have belts?

I would love to hear about your testing process.

Please subscribe and share this video and thank you so much for watching.