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There is a very great deal that is positive about many traditional martial arts, and as well the tests that are given to promote from one belt to the next. Unfortunately, It's also true that some schools employ a system with "gimmie belts." These are schools in which – literally – if you show up for the test and your check clears, you will pass and be promoted.
Check out this 5th-degree Taekwondo test, for example. We refer to these as "McDojos" because receiving a belt from one is much like receiving a toy from a happy meal at McDonalds. To quote the great Chael Sonnen, "Everyone gets one, nobody cares."
Then there are schools that have legitimate promotion tests that are extremely challenging, and are by design formatted in such a way as to truly pressure test one's mettle and skills. The belt promotion awarded in such a test is something one can be monumentally proud of. The MMA welterweight G.O.A.T. Georges St-Pierre said his two greatest accomplishments were winning the UFC belt, and earning a black belt in Kyokushinkai karate.
After one receives a black belt, the degrees awarded thereafter vary drastically from art to art, and even from instructor to instructor within some disciplines. The number of 10th-degree black belts in jiu-jitsu is zero. By contrast, some arts, like American Kenpo, have hundreds of 10th degrees, and it has come to signify mainly that the rank holder is overweight, and can wave his or her hands around.
Here is a 10th-degree in Kenpo demonstrating his specialty, kicking a bowling ball with his toe.
Next is a 15th degree black belt in Kenpo critiquing jiu-jitsu. Unless you watch "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" tonight, it's likely the funniest thing you will see today, however unintended by the hapless 2nd runner up in a Ron Jeremy lookalike contest.
Even the comments on this video are comedy. The below reaction overflows with sarcasm.
"What's great about this video is the instructor clearly knows what they're doing on the ground, he's just being humble. This guy would twist up the best BJJ players on the planet and still make it home in time for his post 2nd breakfast snack. Keep the instruction coming, I feel safer already!"
A fan replies ...
"Slight over statement but he is still correct."
Here is an honest narration of a typical McDojo test.
And last is a 5th-degree Ninjitsu test. The idea of the Godan test is to test one's intuition or sixth sense. The results, if failed, can be painful, as you can see.
This test was created by Masaaki Hatsumi, who has a number of 15th degree black belt students, so he is probably a 16th degree, or 25th-degree black belt. Or leventy-leventh-degree, maybe.
The premise of the test is bunk. Anyone who can establish that humans possess a 6th sense for danger will win the Nobel Peace Prize, for so dramatically extended mankind's knowledge of itself. It's an easy scientific test – remove sight and hearing mechanically, and then bonk someone in the head with a bamboo stick. They will not roll out of the way.
To anyone disagreeing, unprecedented historic fame awaits. Find a ninja and conduct a scientific experiment. If they do roll out of the way, it will be published. Others will replicate your experiment, as it's an easy one. You will, in short time, become the first person to prove humans have a 6th sense.
But you won't, because humans don't have a 6th sense. What we do have, many of us, is a desire to have a 6th sense. And so flim flammers take advantage, with parlor tricks. Watch the instance where the devotee rolls out of the way successfully; at the 0:42 mark the wacker rises up suddenly onto the balls of his feet and then drops weight down. Compare that to the instance at 1:02 when the wacker is successful; there is no rising up and down. Granted, anyone being so bamboozled needs to be hit in the head, but that was not their intention.
The illustration below should help you see for yourself.
Tests like these are at once pathetic and scandalous, as they prey on the thought-clouding human desire for mystical powers, that some unfortunates don't lose, even when they stop reading comic books.
Martial arts are too often the province of the venal leading the gullible. If this was, say, comic books, it wouldn't matter. But people rely on martial arts to actually defend themselves, so ruses like this one are profoundly shameful and unethical.
If you watched this video the first time, and were impressed, thought that perhaps ninjas were actually developing a sixth sense of danger, then, unequivocally, you have lost your way in the martial arts. This is a con, and you are the mark.
Again, anyone disagreeing, don't argue here, instead go earn yourself a Nobel Prize.