By Jose R. Villanueva
As originally published on the Listen & Be Heard Weekly1, December 28, 2005.
The Martial Arts is no different than any other activity when it comes to testing practitioners for their knowledge and ability except in the area of 100% application. The educational system in California generally only tests on theory, but there is not enough application (practical portion). The Martial Arts practitioner is taught theory; thereafter, he applies everything that he knows. It is mental and physical application. There is always a direct and practical application to everything that is learned, but this is not always true in academia. In fact, it is one of the reasons why students fail when they have to apply their knowledge in life or in a working environment. Testing in the Martial Arts is the summation of all that was learned, and one's application and performance verify one's knowledge and ability. The final aspect of testing is the acknowledgement that one had actually achieved a level of skill. This is vital, so the practitioner really knows he made it.
Theory comprises the actual written findings that are verified by observation and experimentation. A body of knowledge is derived from those accumulated theories. No body of knowledge can exist without first discovering the truths of that subject and codifying them. So much of our educational system is mixed with a lot of impractical, unworkable, and unverified pieces of data that they call knowledge and truth. The Martial Arts cannot consist of those type of data because it will be found to be unworkable in application.
The application (practical) portion of the Martial Arts can be seen in the workability of the exercises and techniques. It is a "doingness" type of activity. Every technique and every exercise are constantly evaluated for their workability every time an instructor or student tries to use them. It cannot be faked. One will know how to do it or not.
Verification of knowledge is done by testing a practitioner's knowledge, and his ability to apply it. A practitioner trains under a Martial Arts system, and he accumulates knowledge for every level. He must be able to apply it. There has to be 100% application. This is the standard of testing because one is dealing with people's lives. If a practitioner cannot apply a technique correctly, he and others may get hurt or killed in the streets. When 100% verification of application occurs, one has competence.
Acknowledgement after verification is a vital factor because it solidifies the accomplishment of a particular level of skill in the mind of the practitioner. The acknowledgement includes a promotion ceremony that is validated by the head instructor stating "congratulations!" The certificate validates on paper one's accomplishment for a level of skill. This must be done so the person really knows with certainty that he has made it.
Testing is an integral part of the Martial Arts. If it does not exist, no practitioner can be validated for any level of skill. Quality control could not be accomplished. One would never know if a person was competent enough to teach, apply any techniques, and defend oneself.