When I hear the determined statement, “Failure is not an option”, I reply, “Failure is Always an option”. I believe that is true of most endeavors, except when it comes to many martial arts ranking tests I’ve seen.
I have witnessed a ton of grading tests and with few exceptions they are all pro forma; it didn’t matter how badly the student did, they passed. The student knew it, the instructors knew it, and the audience knew it. This has been true at large schools and small, with many people testing or just one.
The belts have all been ordered with the names embroidered. The new certificates have been produced with the names and dates neatly printed. Refreshments have been laid out in preparation for the festivities to follow the handing out of the new belts.
Do the students benefit from this approach to testing? Does the school or system benefit from this rubber stamp testing? I strongly believe the answer is no.
If the students know that doing the minimum will still earn them their promotion then that is exactly what they will produce, the minimum. What is a belt worth if it is earned in this manner? What does it say about the school or system?
What is the gift of failure for the student? A higher respect for the belt they just earned and the school and instructors that graded them. The concept that not passing a test is not defeat but a call to work harder.
What is the gift of failure for the school/system? I’ve had students quit because they didn’t pass a test. Those are the kind of people who would not represent the school or system well. The sooner you find out the better off you are.
I would like to propose a different format. The testing, real testing with a very real possibility of failure, be conducted with just the students and the testing board in attendance - private, closed door, students seeking promotion only, and instructors. For those who passed, a public ceremony at a later date.
Side Note: I know of no one in the Goju-Shorei Weapons System who did not have to retake at least one test on their path to Black Rank.