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Criteria for Promotional Evaluation

Students advance through grades in the martial arts by passing periodic examinations. These examinations are comprised of two major components: 1) the written test, 2) the skills test. Several weeks prior to the examination a list of students considered to be eligible for promotion will be posted or announced by your instructor. If your name is on the list you will be expected to take the exam; if your name is not on the list and you feel it should be, politely approach your instructor to make an inquiry.

You are constantly being evaluated by your instructor who reports to the senior instructor regarding your progress. Together they will decide when you are ready to enter a new grade. When that time comes you should feel confident that your instructor feels you are ready to promote; the decision is not up to you!

There are many criteria by which a student is eventually judged, but your attendance will (at least initially) determine your promotional eligibility. Once eligible, factors such as athletic ability, intellectual ability, attitude, extracurricular activities, written performance and skills test performance are considered on an individual basis.

At this point it becomes worth mentioning that just as in your academic endeavors where you find a distribution within a graduating class based upon grade point average, we find the same thing in martial arts classes. Unlike the hierarchical, bureaucratic organization of our public education system, the American Butokukan prefers to screen its membership's advancement so that students' progress into new grades at or above the industry means. This ensures that American Butokukan students are among the best in the nation for their particular grade. Belt grades are divided into four general levels: white, green, brown, and black. In the American Butokukan, we have eleven grades below black belt and nine degrees of black belt. Each kyu (grade) is awarded with an associated indication of where the student falls within the standard distribution for that grade. See the chart below:

 10 WHITE
9 YELLOW
8 YELLOW
7 YELLOW

6 GREEN
5 GREEN
4 PURPLE
3 PURPLE

2 BROWN
1 BROWN
C BROWN

1-3 BLACK INSTRUCTORS
4-6 BLACK MASTERS
7-9 BLACK GRAND MASTERS

For instance, a student can be promoted to 8th kyu with: 1) probationary conditions, 2) a minus, 3) a straight pass, 4) a plus, 5) a double plus, 6) the next grade, or can be failed at the instructor's discretion based on test results and associated criteria.

Lastly, when the promotion does occur, try to keep your opinions to yourself. No two students learn at the same pace, therefore some will promote faster than others; sometimes because of prior experience in other martial arts, sometimes for reasons unapparent to all but the senior instructor. Just remember that you must trust your instructors; you may have one to three years in training but a master has closer to twenty, a grand master thirty or even forty years of training. Your experience and understanding is like that of a small child's and the Master's an adult by comparison; it is only necessary that you understand that your perspective is limited. It is good that you care!

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