Test Etiquette / Information:
We use the Japanese Kyu/Dan ranking system.
Kyu 級 are “levels” for under belts (white-brown)
Dan 段 are degrees of black belt.
Kyu ranks move downward ⇩ meaning the lower # is best, while Dan ranks move upward ⇧ while high # is best. Example 1-Kyu brown belt (5 tips) is ready for pre-black belt test. *remember a black belt is not an expert. Shodan means “beginning” degree. It is a major milestone like graduating high school, but then you must start college and move up the Dan ladder.
An exam at our dojo is influenced by a number of factors that are not cut/dry including:
- Minimum requirements (kihon/kata)
- Technique (Martial Arts)
- Character Development (Martial Way)
- Class Attendance
- Intensity / Effort
- Private Lessons
- Kumite (sparring) in-class evaluation *required at intermediate level to advance
The minimum amount of time between tests is 4-months. It is just a “minimum.” Some students may need extra time to prepare, and that is all apart of the journey. If Sensei or your private instructor think you need more time, there is never a penalty to push your test back a month or two until you are ready. There is no rush, karate is a journey. When you get an automated e-mail about testing, it’s just that automated. It is a reminder that you are “eligible” no required to test.
*Minimum requirements: Learning higher katas is admirable, but not at the expense of your requirements. Knowing a higher kata does not make you eligible for the belt it coincides with, they are considered bonus. Kata is only “one” of the factors. You must meet maintain your basics (foundation), and still focus on the “short list” of kihon and kata specific to your rank. That list often determines if a retest is needed. Previous experience, private lessons, Kata class, and Saturday class can accelerate advancement as can high level proficiency in kumite (Shihan’s discretion). All basic requirements are listed https://norwinninjas.com/test/
The journey from White→Yellow→Orange→ Blue (novice ranks) can be very different for an adult/teenager compared to a Ninja. Rapid advancement, skipping stripes can occur; however it’s not the norm. While you may know all the “technical” material for a certain level, remember the process is a marathon not a sprint.
Every test level is considered a ½ point (stripe) as normal progression. If you jump from white to yellow, it is a full 1-point (skipping the yellow stripe in the process). Earning a full point is the maximum Shihan allows on any single test, no matter how much material you know. *Also we don’t straddle stripes (if you have a yellow stripe, you won’t pass to an orange stripe) earning the “solid” belt is the goal. The development of our system takes adequate time for maturity and character development (time served).
Never compare your progress with your line mate. Your training is “individual” “you versus yourself.” Students with limitations or who may suffer from a disability either (physical or mental), chronic injuries or disease also play a part in the subjective outcome of a test. This is where heart, attitude and determination come into play. Courage/Determination (or as Sensei likes to call it “will over skill”) is a vital characteristic to consider. This can outshine the technical aspect of a test in some cases. Personal development is just that, personal.
When do I need to spar? You are permitted to begin sparring as early as white belt w/yellow stripe (passed first test) and can start at any age (4 years old+). It is recommended you try out sparring class by Orange belt. You must have sparring experience to pass to intermediate level (Green belt). See Sensei Bill for details.
Intro-Ninjas: Solid White belts ninjas who take “optional” private lessons can earn a yellow belt if they learn the entire Heian #1 (first kata). The kata isn’t taught during intro class and isn’t required for the white belt with yellow stripe, which most ninjas earn first.
Line up by Rank: In our Ninja classes, the higher belts line up in the front line in order by colors ascendingly. There is no specific assigned order within a color for Ninjas. Once a student moves into the Intermediate or adult class, they must line up individually by “rank” based on the performance of their test. Those in a group who score “highest” are called out “last” when given results (or the leader of that group). This position in line can flip flop based on each test.
*something to consider: Students who enjoy tournaments please factor that your belt or kata can determine your division: Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced. I always encourage students to move “up” to challenge themselves, but make sure you are ready. Just because you can perform kata #4, you must ask yourself is it at an intermediate or advanced level? If you wish to perform kata #4, you must move from novice division to intermediate or advanced at tournaments. Sometimes staying the course is better than jumping ahead so you can gain experience. This is a good conversation to have with Sensei.
Intermediate (Blue ⇆ green) and incorporate 2 tips on the obi.
A full point would be earn 2 tips at once, but this is rare and mostly reserved for students with previous martial arts experience (black belts from another style etc. or adults). This is open to Shihan discretion.
Advanced (purple ⇆ brown) Purple belts and Brown belts do not skip tips–ever. Each tip is critical in the learning process.
*In order to earn intermediate (green rank) the student must be engaged in sparring class. Intermediate students must be enrolled in at least a 2x per week membership.
Perspective: Sensei Bill Jr. and Gabby never skipped any stripes or belts. They have earned each level in in succession. So always expect to just take one step at a time and enjoy the journey.
Pass/Fail/Retest: Nearly every test, a few students don’t pass or need a retest. This is normal and part of the learning curve. It is also reminder that you need to “earn” each step and can be a wakeup call. We want each student to exceed their own “potential,” so every student is evaluated differently.
Pass: Self-explanatory. Results typically given 1-week from the test at the end of class
Fail: Did not meet minimum requirements, must wait for an upcoming test. (Discussion with sensei to determine the amount of time needed to prepare)
Retest: In some cases the majority of the test is passed, but a single area needs improvement. An immediate retest can occur within 2 weeks, after consultation with the examiner. Sometimes a single private lesson on the trouble area can do the trick. There is no fee associated with this, and rank is promoted immediately after the retest session.
Etiquette: Full gi, never any t-shirts: clean/ironed, Water is permitted (always raise hand), you must pre-pay before the test takes place, if you miss your scheduled test, you can schedule a private test if an examiner is available (with an additional fee based on private lesson rate) or test the following month at no extra charge with the group.
*If a student shows dynamic skill or maturity an expedited test can occur (less than the standard 4-month period). These are rare and nominated by a high ranking black belt. It is never polite to ask, this will happen organically if necessary.