NPR Story about Assessments and Testing

this may in fact do nothing for the eternal debate of pro-con on training and assessment, but if nothing else, at least there is an audio file to amuse you.

I mentally inserted the word kayak, and paddling every time she said karate, Sing and all of you martial artists, you can mentally leave the karate in if you want :slight_smile:


– Last Updated: Apr-26-05 11:57 AM EST –

Not a new perspective to me. The pro's and con's have been debated, at least in MA circles, for decades. "Standardized" test is still very much, in the chronology of eastern MA's, a recent development (by Jigaro Kano of modern judo fame) and very much caters to a western perspective that needs to measure (without actually having to test through battle - substitute rough water conditions for kayaking) "proficiency." The debate continues because the question is whether the testing is truly reflective of "proficieny" in physical and mental capacity to perform when called for in real battle, or it it proficiency in meeting the demands of a "set curriculum" within the still relatively safe structure of "pretend combat?"

For folks who will never seen real conflict, the testing will be the closest they will ever get to experiencing an adrenaline rush and having to function through it. The hope is that the testing will prepare in some way for a jump over that gap into the reality of a volatile and unscripted real life situation.

In the last two decades, the rise of mixed martial arts (MMA) actually stood a lot of the (modern) "traditional" artists on their head. Many recent MMA folks don't test or get "rankings." Their "rankings" come from engaging in almost no-holds bar matches in the ring. The MMAs have, as a group, trounced many of the traditional martial artists in the ring. To the point where a traditional martial artist needs to go outside of his/her standard curriculum (or style) to seek additional training and hands-on practice matches to get up to speed if they hope to compete effectively. In other words, their previous "ranking" means nothing in the unscripted no-holds bar matches.

Then you have the weapons based martial artists who think all the no holds bar stuff is still "play fighting." They maintain "true" martial arts can't rely on empty hand systems but must incorporate the whole spectrum of combat, up to edge and projectile weapons. Some of these folks engage routinely in full contact sparring with sticks and minimal protection (or none at all in some countries).

The kayaking (BCU/ACA) debate just like the MA "reality" debate can go on endlessly, with each side having its own proponents and detractors. And, "truth" as well as "self delusion" will exist on all sides as well.

I have my own perspective, though I don't think it's the absolute truth. It's just a relative truth based on my own experiences, perspectives and inclinations. BTW, my son is a budding martial artist. He barely tested for anything from his TKD instructor. I work with him on boxing and other stuff. I give no official tests except to do freestyle drills and sparring with him. Two weeks ago, three boys attempted to rob him while he was in the boys room (while at the urinal no less). He pushed them off and they ran outside the boys room. The lead trouble maker stayed behind to confront my son. He was around 6' tall compared to my son who is 5'4". Anyway, the trouble maker didnt' like my son confronting them. He launched into his attack. My son covered up his lower face (from knockout shots), took some shots in the forehead (nice bruises), block most and went on his counterattack. He punched and broke the other guy's nose, attacked the punk's knees with some roundhouse kicks, followed by straight front kick to the midsection, sending the other guy backwards. Then the fight was broken up by the spectators...

I think my son passed that martial arts' test... Nevertheless, he is going to enter his first karate tournament this saturday. Although he is officially ranked slightly better than a white belt (again, he doesn't "test" often), I have entered him into the green/brown belt (intermediate) category, as he requested. I suspect he will make it to the mid round eliminations, regardless of his official ranking because, frankly, he has been tested more than some of the higher ranking teens that will be there. We'll see.

Anyway, substute white water, surf, or rough water touring for what I described above. You get the gist of what I think.


i think what clicked for me in the
audio file was that this woman said that the test forced her to push herself, and to achieve something she might not have tried to do if not for the test.

Goes Back To How We “Operate…”
(or learn, or be motivated) in different ways. I don’t find “standardized tests” particularly motivating. I have a natural curiousity to explore and to “test” in my own way the things that I am interested in.

I think my son may be the same way. After his first test and promotion, he said to me, “Well, I feel no different.” He hangs out with four or five classmates who are all martial artists in different disciplines – jujutsu, wrestling, boxing, Tai Chi and boxing. Their favorite pasttime is to meet in the field after school and spar with each other. It’s like an open laboratory of martial arts experimentation and testing (of the underlying theories behind the styles). There is no concern whatsoever about respective ranks in their styles. I think it’s great for him (and probably the others). He comes back about with questions about certain types of “attacks” and “defenses” and he goes back and tries it out on his buddies.

Probably a better approach then how I was motivated – where we got into jams and really pounded the crap out of each for real… Obviously, I don’t do that anymore (nor encourage my kids to do it that way). But, I know I take some of that same approach to my kayaking… It’s a sublimination thingie… :slight_smile:



Good for her
Which doesn’t mean good for everybody. That’s the point that the “don’t knock certification until you try it” crowd keeps missing. Some like structure and testing. Others prefer to learn what they need to know to do what they want to do and take their tests from the ocean. Why can’t we all just get along?

I’m not prostletizing
but I thought that somebody might be able to connect with the piece about karate. I don’t know what the answer is, I do know it’s the wrong question.

Why would someone attack your son in a men’s room?

Why Would Anyone “Attack” Anyone?

– Last Updated: Apr-26-05 9:13 PM EST –

you and I may not be able to answer this question but it happens all the time. The three were trying to rob my kid. The big kid grabbed my son around the head from behnd, while my son was peeing, and the other two proceeded to try to go through his pockets. Speaking of not being materialistic, my son only carries only lunch money, never wants allowance, figures if he need something (seldom) he just ask us...

I have a friend who was on call this past weekend as Rape Crisis Support on the campus she works at. This weekend, she had two calls. Two women raped. Do you understand why? I don't.

All I know is that I am very averse to violence (in real life, believe it or not). That's why I don't even like to get into verbal debates/arguments because I have seen how alot of these degenerate into physical altercations. So I don't bother. Let it roll off. However, I know I am willing to fight if it came down to having no choice when physically pushed. That is why I keep myself in decent shape and in practice. For better or worse, my older son has taken on the same attitude/actions.


from you lips to God’s ears
Thankfully here we have people like you willing to confront the “don’t knock certification until you try it” crowd and show them how to seek the moral high-ground. It’s always refreshing when good men and women have the courage to be not just right-minded but also confident enough to stand up and be counted for what they are. I find it inspirational when someone can speak with such authority and lucidity about what is obviously “right”. I for one applaud you sir.

“Seek perfection of character, be faithful, endeavor, respect of others, refrain from violent behavior.”

It seems like the “don’t knock certification until you try it” crowd might want to consider those words. You are absolutely right, some people just don’t get it. Keep up the good fight. :wink:



The ocean will test you.
Go often enough and she will. The river will test you too.

My elder brothers and sister take me out in their company fron time to time and invite me to do lunatic things. Then I find out what I know and do not know. I invite my less accomplished friends to do the same with me. Progress continues.

Two ranks at one test? Never happened in the school I went to. got to make a rank to be taught the next katas weapons etc.

Oh grow up
I think the point was that there ISN’T an obviously right answer, despite Keith’s best efforts to convince us otherwise. But for those of you who value your merit badges or make a buck issuing them, by all means carry on. You’re providing value to those who value what you’re providing. And that’s a good thing.

such diversity
I will start off with my shock and dismay that I missed that story on NPR, since al my radios are set to it and I broke off the knobs. I have only recently gotten into kayaking, so I am not yet overly adventurous. But I am always up for any chalenge that anyone may lay down for me. I go out to paddle for just an hour or two every evening after work. Nothing fancy, just a little 107 acre lake near my home. I go for endurance and technical practice. I worked one evening for 30 or 45 minuets on just a simple draw stroke. A woman at work asked me why I go out everyday, if I had a contest or competion coming up. I told her that I just wanted to be as good as I could be technically so that I can enjoy myself more when I have to be good. I took MA for years, and I liked it. I felt good when I passed a test, but I don’t feel that at the time i was ever truely prepared if a fight had broken out and I was in it. Simple defense, yes I could handle myself, but not truely prepared. Now I paddle fairly calm rivers and lakes, but I condition in the winter and practice through the spring so that I can be tested by the forces of nature. This summer I will be going out to new water, and I hope that I am tested. I want my body and my skills to be pushed. I want to test to teach me. I thikn that is where a test is truely a test. It should check what you know and prod you to work harder.

As I read through the posts here I was surprised byt he variety of responses. Each one making a perfectly valid point. I know there many never be one right answer, but this group seems to have so many right answers…it is very thought provoking. I will most likely now be thinking about this thread when I am out doing sprints and laps, just wondering what I am not working on hard enough.

NPR Pieces…
I have heard other commentaries woman referenced in the first post before. I enjoy listening to her perspectives – a young, still idealistic teacher in an urban setting. We need more like her. :slight_smile:

Speaking of NPR pieces, there was one the other day from an economics guy who wrote a book, (?) Wacky Economics, which explored some interesting and varied stuff where data were available. There was was an interesting discussion about one part of the book, “Why teachers and sumo wrestlers cheat…” Basically, if the “incentive” is high enough, folks will find a way to cheat on “tests.” The “incentive” can be monetary, personal, whatever. Bottom line, for these folks, the test no longer reflects a true interest in assessing their competence. Rather, it’s gaining something that is not necessarily directly related to the competence being assessed.


Like I said I’m not trying to

– Last Updated: Apr-27-05 8:37 AM EST –

sell anything, I just wanted to share the perspective because I thought it was well written.

Did you listen to the audio file, or just post in opposition right away?

Okay, I’ll Brag…
My son took first place today in his karate sparring tournament. His competitors look look they were operating in slo mo. Right of the bat, my son eliminated the “Grand Champion” for this series of competitions on the first round.

So my son fought in the the age 14-15 intermediate division of green/brown belt ranks. He is just two grades above white belt (and about 2 grades under green belt).

Made me proud, I have to admit. He trains hard with no concerns about his belt color (“ranking”). :slight_smile:


sounds like you and your boys share an interest, which from my experience goes a long way.