Rank and Testing in Martial Arts

Information about martial arts rank tests. For detailed information about rank exams, their requirements and purpose, click one of the links below the video.

Information about Martial Arts Rank tests. (Please register online for your rank test).

Why we have rank and testing today.

The original reason for rank was to set and establish the culture of the dojo. Newer students could look at the next level up for guidance and follow their example of effort, courtesy and technique. In traditional Martial Arts the rank is significant. The wearer is marked as a leader for all students of a lower rank. Thus if a lower ranking student follows the etiquette and technique of a higher rank the correct technique and culture of the dojo is passed on accurately.

There is also a second reason for rank and testing. One day while talking to Sifu Brown (Sempai and my own Kung-fu teacher) I asked him: "Why do we have to go through the process of testing for rank? Can't we just go to classes and practice together?"

Sifu looked directly into my eyes and said: "Sensei, let me ask you a question; how to you perform kote gaeshi on your left side?"

I was taken back just a bit and then said. "Well sir, I can do it, but it's certainly not as good as my right."

Sifu responded: "Sensei remember this one thing; when you take your next test you will be study and learn to do the move equally well on both sides!" You see Sensei, if you never had a real test you would never take the time to become a complete and real Master of the art."

Our standards for rank follow this Eastern tradition of high standards. Our rank is never used to sell a program, or entice an unmotivated student to stay and pay, but instead is considered the foundation for the culture of our school. As a result our rank requirements are a throwback to the early days of Martial Arts, a time when if a student were to be promoted to Black Belt you could rest assured that this person was truly a phenomenal Martial Artist both mentally and physically. *See footnote*

*Unfortunately here in the West many dojos have forsaken the original purpose of rank. In the West rank has been used primarily as a tool in order to get unmotivated students to stay in dojos longer or sign up for longer term programs. During the late 1970’s and 80’s school owners began to notice that if you made rank easier to achieve often students who were getting ready to quit practice would stay on a little longer in order to get a belt if it was easy enough; it was at this point that organizations began to eliminate true rank testing. Prior to the late 1980’s practically anyone who achieved the rank of Black Belt was an amazingly solid Martial Artist. The standards were high and the results spoke for themselves. Today regrettably, in most places Black Belt has become nearly meaningless. Virtually everyone who enrolls in some schools are expected to receive Black Belt after they have paid a certain amount of money and attended a certain number of classes. We believe making rank easy -and using it as a revenue generating tool- is unfortunate. The elimination of rank testing, and the lowering of standards is the single biggest factor that has diminished the perceived value of Martial Arts as a whole.
— Sensei Hurtsellers

Four divisions of rank in our dojo.

There are four divisions of students at our dojo. Below is a list of class hour requirements and standards for each group. The list is quite long so scroll down to see all of it. Keep in mind that the achieving of a certain number of classes while in itself is a great accomplishment, is no guarantee that a student will be ready to test. A student still must be training hard, displaying good attitude both on and off the mats and improving the technique we are seeing in class. Also being asked to test is no guarantee that a student will pass. Our tests are comprehensive and challenging and must be prepared for in advance in order for you to be promoted. See class and skills requirements by simply clicking the appropriate link below.

The style we teach is progressive and is constantly expanding, new technique are integrated in and sometimes new knowledge can make older technique obsolete. In exactly the same way our testing standards may change in subtle ways with the expansion of Martial Art knowledge. Check back to your requirements section before every test to be certain you are up to date on all current requirements.

When are the tests, and how does a student become eligible?

Your first test: White

Tiger Testing is held every month. Our low rank testing for Dragons and Teens includes white through blue. 
Monthly tests for adults include 1st White through 2nd yellow sash. 

These tests are held each month. (Usually the last Saturday of the month) at separate times and in separate groups. These first rank tests - while certainly not the hardest you will face - will be an excellent workout, and will also acclimate you to testing procedures and teach you what to expect of more challenging exams in the future. You should fill out the online form for you to set your goal and planned test date. You can also see the specific date and time of your test on our calendar.

This is the same video as the top of the page.

The first rank test is considered for many to be the most important because it marks the place in your lessons where you actually become a student of the art. To the right is a video that explains the process of becoming a student and what to expect in the future of your practice. 

Higher rank testing

Our dojo's calendar and rank tests are set up and divided into quarters. Quarters will conclude in March, June, September and December. Testing will coincide with the end of each quarter and will usually be the last Saturday of that month unless is falls on a holiday, in which case we will hold the test as close to the end of the month as we can (always check the calendar). Following the testing day, the dojo may be closed on certain days for break but this varies depending on our staffing.  (Often during break week the dojo remains open - the last several break weeks we remained open the entire time). To be sure of our exact dates and times following an end to a quarter, please visit our calendar.

To take an exam students should register with the dojo stating his/her intention to test. Please use our online form to sign up and register for your test. The form is a student's way of making a promise to attend the appropriate number of classes, and study the material to be ready to pass there exam. Here is the sign up form.

On testing day, we will verify that the student has attended the proper number of classes in order to be eligible. There will be no exceptions for not completing the minimum number of classes for that particular rank. Once testing is complete, and the student successfully passes their requirements, the belts/sashes will be ordered, and presented to the students in class after they arrive.

Adult Ranking Requirements

All our tests are formal and the wearing of a formal frog button white jacket is mandatory. In addition to the physical requirements all ranks tests will include verbal questioning over the specific details of technique, as well as Martial Art etiquette and tradition. Please register for your exam in advance here.

White (25 classes minimum)

- Student must be able to repeat out loud their requirements: Sparring stance, side step front foot high block front hand, head hug block, jab, cross, hook punch, uppercut, front kick, knee strike rising delivery
Write and post one or two short paragraphs on our Facebook page telling about one or two areas where the practice has helped your life improve. (Print and bring in your post with you the day of test to be read aloud). If you don't have a Facebook account simply write down your words and bring them in to be read aloud. 

2nd White (50 classes minimum)

All the above plus:side step front foot high block back hand, side step back foot high block front hand, palm strike, low palm strike, nukite strike, roundhouse kick

Yellow (75 classes minimum)

All the above plus: side step front foot low block front hand, side step front foot low block back arm, side step back foot low block front arm, hammer fist downward delivery, hammer fist reverse delivery, haku geri, side kick (At this level all adult students are required to to have visited Sifu Brown's dojo in Detroit for class one night - there is no fee - and you will love it.)

2nd Yellow (100 classes minimum)

All the above plus: elbow strike downward delivery, elbow strike roundhouse delivery, elbow strike rising delivery, elbow strike reverse delivery, knife hand downward delivery, knife hand reverse delivery, hook kick.

Blue (150 classes minimum) 
All Blue Sashes and above write a paper about the benefits of their personal practices. To read some of the papers, click here.

All the above plus: seated meditation for 30 min. no movement, chudan block, jodan block, heito, backfist, snake strike, crane strike, knee strike roundhouse delivery, inside crescent kick, outside crescent kick, axe kick, fumokomi geri, back kick , written Paper two pages to be read out loud: "How the Practice of Martial Arts Has Changed my Life" (From Lesson Ten in Lessons in Mindfulness)

2nd Blue (200 classes minimum)

All the above plus: seated meditation for 45 min. no movement, (Currently this meditation can be done on your own in advance of your test). A) 3 combinations you will have created and trained on in advance. Each combination will consist of one defensive technique and three offensive techniques demonstrated on both sides. B) Sensei's Combinations: Be able to demonstrate up to any four techniques in any order. C) Kote Gaeshi from the following attacks: lapel grab, cross hand wrist grab, same side wrist grab, two hand wrist grab from the front, two hand wrist grab from behind. D) Side Stepping Drill with partner E) Kata Kumite F) Juijitsu Techniques: falling - front, back, side, front and back roll outs, closed guard, open guard, butterfly guard, full mount, side mount, north-south, knee in stomach, escape from wrist grabs both one and two handed grabs 06 and 07, technical lift stand up 61, upa 03, shrimp 49, scissors sweep 18, push sweep against wide base 26, hip heist, G) Paper two pages to be read out loud: "The One Single Thing that Practicing Martial Arts Has Done for Me"

Brown (300 classes minimum)

All the above plus: seated meditation for 60 min. no movement, A) 5 combinations you will have created and trained on in advance. Each combination will consist of one defensive technique and three offensive techniques demonstrated on both sides. B) Sensei's Combinations: Be able to demonstrate up to any five techniques in any order. C) Kote Gaeshi, Ikkyo and Sankyo, from the following attacks: lapel grab, cross hand wrist grab, same side wrist grab, two hand wrist grab from the front, two hand wrist grab from behind -(kote gaeshi and sankyo only) D) Juijitsu Techniques: collar choke using their shirt 11, single arm bar from guard 51, double arm bar from guard, defense against shoulder grab 40, kumura from guard 36, guillotine from guard 37, elbow escape from side mount 30, stack to pass 17, finger lock against choke 74, defense against bent over headlock E) Paper two pages to be read out loud: "What Does it Mean to be a Warrior in Modern Times?"

2nd Brown (400 classes minimum) 
All of the above plus: A) 5 combinations you will have created and trained on in advance. Each combination will consist of one defensive technique and four offensive techniques demonstrated on both sides. B) Sensei's Combinations: Be able to demonstrate up to any six techniques in any order. C) Shiho nage from cross hand wrist grab, same side wrist grab, defense against giant haymaker D) Juijitsu Techniques: defense against rear bear hug 13, americana 19, arm bar from mount 20, defense against guillotine 21, double ankle grab sweep 23, elevator sweep 27, frame headlock and bear hug escape 28, defense against one arm rear standing choke, defense against front bear hug over arms 33, rear naked choke E) Free Sparring F) Paper two pages to be read out loud: "What Makes Practicing Martial Arts Different than Anything Else I could be doing with my Time, Money, and Energy"

Red (600 classes minimum)

All the above plus: A) 5 combinations you will have created and trained on in advance. Each combination will consist of one defensive technique and four offensive techniques demonstrated on both sides. B) Sensei's Combinations: Be able to demonstrate up to any six techniques in any order. C) Kote Gaeshi, Ikkyo, Sankyo, dragon wing, giant haymaker defense, all against various flowing attacks D) Juijitsu Techniques: triangle choke 48, hook arm inside sweep 65, arm inside arm bar 66, standing sweep, omoplata 64, achilles ankle lock 58, defense against rear two handed neck grab 76, various guard passes to side mount, side mount to full mount E) Free Grappling F) Paper two pages to be read out loud: "How I Can Use My Martial Arts to Positively Impact the Lives of Others"

2nd Red (800 classes minimum) 
All the above plus: A) 5 combinations you will have created and trained on in advance. Each combination will consist of one defensive technique and four offensive techniques demonstrated on both sides. B) Sensei's Combinations: Be able to demonstrate up to any six techniques in any order. C) Kote Gaeshi, Ikkyo, Sankyo, dragon wing, giant haymaker defense, all against various flowing attacks D) Juijitsu Techniques: Knee bar from guard 77, stacking guard into ankle lock 75, cobra, crucifix E) Sparring, two vs one F) Three knife defenses; at neck palm up and palm down, stabbing toward body from front and back, from behind headlock G) Paper two pages to be read out loud: "How I Have Made Martial Arts a Way of Life"

Black (1000 classes and ten years of practice minimum)

A Comprehensive exam over all the above and everything else. Black represents the highest level of performance of mind body and spirit. It is said only one in a thousand will be chosen to be promoted to this level.

Currently in our style Black Sash is the highest rank that can be achieved. Unlike many other styles, our black sash is not simply another step on a journey but represents the highest current rank granted. Not every Red sash is invited to enter the extensive training period. Not everyone who is invited will complete the training.

Teen Rank Requirements (Age 10-16)

All tests are formal and the wearing of a formal white gi jacket is mandatory. After White, students must know how to correctly tie their own belt. In addition to the physical requirements all ranks tests will also include verbal questioning over the specific details of technique, as well as Martial Art etiquette and tradition. Please register your student for their exam in advance here.

White (10 tokens turned in - no test)

- Student must learn to tie their belt before the white belt is permitted to be worn in class.

Yellow (25 classes minimum)

- Student must be able to repeat out loud their requirements: head hug block, jab, cross, hook punch, uppercut, front kick, knee strike rising delivery

Gold (50 classes minimum)

All the above plus: side step front foot high block front hand, side step front foot high block back hand, side step back foot high block front hand, palm strike, nukite, roundhouse kick

Bright Orange (75 classes minimum)

All the above plus: hammer fist downward delivery, hammer fist reverse delivery, low palm strike, Haku Geri, Side kick

Dark Orange (100 classes minimum)

All the above plus: side step front foot low block front hand, side step front foot low block back arm, side step back foot low block front arm, elbow strike downward delivery, elbow strike roundhouse delivery, elbow strike rising delivery, elbow strike reverse delivery

Red (125 classes minimum)

All the above plus: knife hand downward delivery, knife hand reverse delivery, snake strike, crane strike, hook kick, back kick

Blue (150 classes minimum)

All the above plus: chudan block, jodan block, backfist, hieto (ridgehand), knee strike roundhouse delivery, inside crescent kick, outside crescent kick, axe kick, fumokomi geri

Blue belt testing will also require striking pads at full power to demonstrate correctness of technique and conditioning.

Green (200 classes minimum)

All the above plus: A) 2 combinations you will have created and trained on in advance. Each combination will consist of one defensive technique and three offensive techniques demonstrated on both sides. B) Sensei's Combinations: Be able to demonstrate up to any four techniques in any order. C) Kote Gaeshi from the following attacks: lapel grab, cross hand wrist grab, same side wrist grab, two hand wrist grab from the front, two hand wrist grab from behind D) Juijitsu Techniques: falling - front, back, side, front and back roll outs, closed guard, open guard, butterfly guard, full mount, side mount, north-south, knee in stomach, escape from wrist grabs both one and two handed grabs, technical lift stand up E) Kata Kumite F) Side Stepping Drill with partner

Purple (250 classes minimum)

All the above plus: A) 3 combinations you will have created and trained on in advance. Each combination will consist of one defensive technique and three offensive techniques demonstrated on both sides. B) Sensei's Combinations: Be able to demonstrate up to any five techniques in any order. C) Ikkyo from the following attacks: lapel grab, cross hand wrist grab, same side wrist grab, two hand wrist grab from the front D) Jiujitsu Techniques: Upa Pg.3, Shrimp Pg. 49, Scissors Sweep Pg. 18, Push sweep against wide post Pg. 26, single arm bar from guard Pg. 51, double arm bar from guard, hip heist from guard

Brown (300 classes minimum)

All the above plus: A) 5 combinations you will have created and trained on in advance. Each combination will consist of one defensive technique and three offensive techniques demonstrated on both sides. B) Sensei's Combinations: Be able to demonstrate up to any six techniques in any order. C) Sankyo from the following attacks: lapel grab, cross hand wrist grab, same side wrist grab, two hand wrist grab from the front, two handed wrist grab from behind D) Jiujitsu Techniques: stack Pg. 17, elbow escape from side mount Pg. 30, kimura from guard Pg.34, guillotine from guard Pg. 37, defense against shoulder grab Pg. 40

Ni Kyu - Brown with White Stripe (400 classes minimum)

All the above plus: A) 5 combinations you will have created and trained on in advance. Each combination will consist of one defensive technique and four offensive techniques demonstrated on both sides. B) Sensei's Combinations: Be able to demonstrate up to any six techniques in any order. C) Kote Gaeshi, Ikkyo, and Sankyo from the following attacks: lapel grab, cross hand wrist grab, same side wrist grab, two hand wrist grab from the front, two handed wrist grab from behind - ( Kote Gaeshi and Sankyo only) D) Jiujitsu Techniques: defense against bent over headlock, finger lock against choke Pg. 74, Americana Pg. 19, double ankle grab sweep Pg. 23, frame/ headlock or bear hug escape Pg. 28 E) Free Sparring

Ei Kyu - Brown with Red Stripe (600 classes minimum)

All the above plus: A) 5 combinations you will have created and trained on in advance. Each combination will consist of one defensive technique and five offensive techniques demonstrated on both sides. B) Sensei's Combinations: Be able to demonstrate up to any seven techniques in any order. C) Juijitsu Techniques: defense against rear bear hug Pg. 13, defense against standing rear choke, rear naked choke Pg. 46, triangle choke Pg. 48, hook arm inside sweep Pg. 65, standing sweep, escape from guard to side mount, side mount to full mount D) Free Grappling (rolling) E) Free Sparring (Kumite) F) Read "Zen in the Martial Arts" and write a two page paper on your favorite chapter and why. (To be read out loud)

When a Teen reaches the age of sixteen they are eligible to also attend our adult class. Since the rank colors, expectations, and requirements are different and more difficult for an adult than a teen there is no direct correlation between a teen belt and an adult sash. When a teen is ready to make the jump to adults they will be given the opportunity to test in at a level that best matches their skills.

Dragon Rank Requirements (Age 6-10)

All tests are formal and the wearing of a formal white jacket is mandatory. After white, students must know how to correctly tie their own belt. In addition to the physical requirements all ranks tests will also include some verbal questioning to be certain the student understands the specific details of their technique. Please register your student for their exam in advance here.

White (10 tokens turned in - no test) 

- Student must learn to tie their belt before the white belt is permitted to be worn in class.

Yellow Stripe (25 classes minimum)

- Student must be able to repeat out loud their requirements: 
Jab, Cross, Front Kick, Knee strike rising delivery

Gold Stripe (50 classes minimum)

All the above plus:  Upper Cut, Hook Punch, Head Hug Block

Bright Orange Stripe (75 classes minimum)

All the above plus: Palm strike, Roundhouse kick, Hook kick

Dark Orange Stripe (100 classes minimum)

All the above plus: Hammerfist downward delivery, Hammerfist reverse delivery, Axe kick

Red Stripe (125 classes minimum)

All the above plus: Nukite, Knee strike roundhouse delivery, Fumokomi geri

Blue Stripe (150 classes minimum)

All the above plus: Chudan block, Jodan block, Head Hug block, Side Kick

Green Stripe (200 classes minimum) All the above plus: Side step front foot high block front hand, Low palm strike, Backfist

Purple Stripe (250 classes minimum)

All the above plus: Side step back foot high block front hand, Side step front foot high block back hand, Snake strike, Elbow strike roundhouse delivery, Elbow strike reverse delivery (front arm only)

Teal Stripe (300 classes minimum)

All the above plus: Side step front foot low block front hand, Side step back foot low block front hand, Elbow strike downward delivery, Elbow strike rising delivery, Crane strike, Rising delivery Haku geri

Tan (350 classes minimum) All the above plus: Side step front foot low block back hand, Knife hand downward deliver, Knife hand reverse delivery (front hand only), Heito, Inside crescent kick, Outside crescent kick, Back kick (back leg only)

When a Dragon reaches the age of ten they are eligible to also attend our teen class. Since the rank colors, expectations, and requirements are different and more difficult for a teen than a Dragon there is no direct correlation between a Dragon belt and a teen belt. When a Dragon is ready to make the jump to teens they will be allowed to test into a teen rank that best fits their then current skill level.

 

Stripes and Wristbands for Kids: A reward system for kids (Dragons and Teens)
 

About our Reward System:
We have rank (ie. a belt system) in our dojo to establish the culture of our school and to provide an authentic test that a student must prepare for and work towards. By having a rank system we assure our students learn and excel in Martial Arts practice. Real rank tests, and the real achievement of rank is the building block of self-confidence in young people; and it’s one of the most important benefits to study at our dojo.

For years we've spoken out against what the Martial Arts industry as a whole has done to the ranking system. Most commercial schools in the U.S. have turned the ranking system into a reward system. Kids are given a rank essentially for just showing up at class without any real test whatsoever. We think that long term this is not only bad for the Martial Arts; we believe it’s also bad for the student. It sends the message to a student that no matter how hard you work, no matter how much you study, pretty much everyone gets their next belt if they just show up.

The consequence of giving rank away can have a terrible effect on the culture of a school. Firstly, students who are motivated to sincerely study and face a challenge begin to lose their motivation. (After all, if the goal is a belt, and everyone is going to get the belt, why not take it easy?). Secondly; students who no longer want to practice, who for whatever reason would rather be doing something else have a tendency to “stick around” to get their belt; again this creates a terrible atmosphere to learn in. Thirdly and finally, when rank becomes watered down and meaningless, so do the leaders in a dojo. In other words, one of the biggest reasons for having rank in a school is that if you see someone who has a darker belt than you, and you follow their example, you can correctly learn. If the rank is meaningless then you can’t depend on learning from others in the dojo, and it’s impossible to end up being really good in the art.

So it’s with slight concern that we implemented our reward system. We wanted to give kids (This is for kids only) a reward or prize for attending classes regularly, but at the same time we didn't want to disturb the environment that we've worked so hard to create.

A rank system and a reward system can co-exist.
It is possible to have BOTH a reward system and a rank system, operating side by side without confusing the two. To have an unwavering high standard for the achievement of rank, but also to have a reward system in place that does give kids the incentive they sometimes need.

It is true that kids shouldn't be given rank for simply showing up. It is also true that showing up is incredibly important and kids can and should be given something for the effort and sacrifice showing up can sometimes mean. The key is not to confuse the two; rewards such as wrist bands, prizes and tips are given for simply showing up, belts require practice and preparation.

The Reward System:

Our system is super easy and rewards kids for regular class attendance, and it even teaches them how to save! Here’s how it works:

1. Each time a student attends class they will be given one token. It is the responsibility of the student to be careful to keep their tokens in a safe place and save them. (Yes tokens are a reward; but they are also designed to help kids learn to save and teach them personal responsibility.)

2. Each time a student accumulates 10 tokens they will turn them in for a reward. After the first 10 are turned in a youth student will receive their white belt. (Students are required to tie their own belt in order to wear it in class).

3. Every 10 tokens turned in moving forward represents a black stripe on the current belt.

This is a fun (and fairly simple) part of our program. Kids love it when they get the hang of it; they learn about saving and personal responsibility, it helps them stay motivated too. The lesson we want kids to learn above all else is this: Showing up isn't the only thing necessary to prosper; but showing up is a vitally important. Showing up is the first step - and good attendance is rewarded.