Science of Testing Part I
By: Master Larry Dercole
The process of study of any organized curriculum or training involves progress checks also known as "Testing." This vital tool not only provides a measurement for each student's comprehension and development but also provides valuable feedback for instructors to improve upon as teachers.
In Tang Soo Do and for martial arts in general, belt level testing and the recommendation for such has become the systematized goal. Both the instructor's recommendations for the student to test and the testing itself can carry equal weight in measuring one's skill level. An important factor for eligibility is ATTENDANCE. Students whom are regularly training and are regularly in the environment of training are obviously more prepared for those whom are not. Receiving an instructor's recommendation for test represents the confidence of progress the instructor has for the student's abilities. This recommendation however should be accepted as an honor and challenge and not an illusion of automatic promotion. Upon receiving such recommendation, the training student should then seriously prepare for the examination, demonstrating their personal best in technique, attitude, uniform, terminology, history, protocol, etc., at their corresponding rank level. Young and very young students, however, should be exposed to the testing format as soon as reasonably possible simply because of the beneficial lesson of earning something. With the advent of the World Tang Soo Do Association’s Tiny Tigers (3-5 years of age) and Little Dragons (5-7 years of age) programs, the abbreviated testing structure and advancement guidelines are an excellent model to help youngsters grasp the "EARNING" concept. Older students follow a more traditional standard with more stringent requirements and a longer record of attendance.

Preparing for testing and for your personal best, the adage "practice makes perfect" gives way to "perfect practice makes perfect." While the short term goal in martial arts is are the belt testing and advancement, the long-term objectives are to develop the wholesome benefits and behavior changes cultivated in the classroom and carried with the student throughout everyday life. The more opportunities a student has to present his/her best, the more he/she will be actively exercising and refining these behavior changes, skills, knowledge, and spirit. Testing is one of several opportunities to present one's personal best. Likewise, championships and competitions can offer the same. One does not need to be the winner to have a winning attitude. Winning a competition and receiving a trophy is always nice and always feels good, however the truer value of such activities is the SELF-TEST. "Did I or didn't I present my absolute best" is the question everyone should ask themselves after these formal events? Another opportunity for your personal best is exhibitions. Demo teams are a fun and exciting way to shine and show your stuff. The ultimate opportunity, however would be your regularly scheduled class. We return to the concept of "perfect practice makes perfect." The habit of doing your best simply molds the student into becoming their best.

The "Testing" should be masterfully directed by examiners from the testing table. On testing day, observant examiner/s are able to sense the energy in the room. If energy seems low, they are quick to determine why and take steps to correct it. Sometimes an innocent remark such as " boy it sure is hot today" suggests to the student that it is just too hot triggering lower performance - or - reprimanding students on testing day can produce a similar negative reaction and therefore negative results. Reprimands would be better received during the class time, not test time. Conversely, an uplifting comment can have the ability to promote a powerful effect and performance for the testing student. The power of suggestion can be quite potent. A masterfully directed test also involves experienced Black Belts as assistants, models and demonstrators. The higher caliber technique and spirit of the more experienced Black Belts becomes contagious filling the atmosphere with a sense of high energy. The testing students of course want to copy this. There are many strategies for the various components of the test (to be documented in another volume), however the focus is to create clarity in the testing student’s mind for optimal performance. An onlooker may be impressed with the discipline displayed by the students, however a deeper analysis reveals strategy and energy management orchestrated by the examiner at the testing table.

On test day it is customary for visiting instructors and/or masters to attend, witness and comment on the students progress. In doing so, visiting instructors can notice and offer comment on various areas of compliment and improvement (and should be done so in that order). The test should be orchestrated to create an environment of excellence. Black belt members of the school should assist or be on standby to assist. The Black Belt example represents the student’s admiration and their reach. With this in mind the responsible Black Belts should take great care to be the best example possible offering their best in attitude, dress, protocol and dialog.
Disappointedly, I attended a Testing recently where several of the studio's black belts were in attendance, however out of uniform and actually playing catch football in the studio's parking lot well within ear and eyeshot of the testing group. What kind of example is that for the aspiring testing students I thought. Why are we here? Removing elements of distraction such as a bothersome audience -(this in not a sports event), the obstructing camera teams -(loose the paparazzi), the negative commentary (save it for the classroom) and of course those less than responsible black belts are all part of good testing orchestration.

From the testing student perspective, the sight of all these high performing Black Belts and high ranking examiners can be intimidating but we all must remind ourselves that intimidation is not at all the purpose of this meeting. The testing panel and their delegates are all voluntarily assembled to witness and enjoy true martial spirit. Nevertheless, nervousness seems to have a hold on many of the performers and as a result, energy is simply dissipating unnecessarily into the cosmos. The key factor is to organize this nervousness constructively; refocusing oneself can channel loose energy effectively into one’s performance.

Next time we will talk about: Proctoring and Strategies in Science of Testing Part II.
Tang Soo!
Master Larry Dercole