The long and arduous path to a Jiu Jitsu Black Belt is often compared to the academic track of an advanced university degree. The level of commitment, dedication and stick-to-it-ness needed are equal to if not greater than someone completing their PhD or pursuing a medical profession.
But many drop off this vaunted track before reaching their goal, never understanding why they did not progress through each “degree” (academic or Jiu Jitsu rank) and not realizing they sabotaged themselves through their own ignorance.
If you are not progressing through the ranks at a pace that you expect (especially in a modern age of instant-gratification), then you should self-monitor these important aspects of both academic and martial arts degree graduations.
1) Class Attendance- this does NOT just mean time “enrolled” in the course (like wine aging in the bottle). It means come to class and doing what needs to be done. (example: if one person has attended class 160 times in the last 5 months, you should not expect the same results or “grade” with only 40 classes in the same time period). In all academic coursework (and public education) attendance requirements are stipulated and required.
2) Knowledge of Standards – there is no mystery as to what you are expected to know and understand. All good teachers and courses provide the standards and expectations from day one. “Cramming” the information at the last moment has been proven ineffective in all areas of study, so learn your curriculum progressively.
3) Assessment – this means knowing the standards and when/how to apply them. There are different levels of expectations for every grade, but you either know them or need to work on them. A good instructor tells you what areas need help but it’s your job to do the work.
4) Benchmarks – comprehensive assessments at periodic intervals (ie. trainings/seminars). Some courses (ie academies) only offer a high-stakes pass/fail final. Others have mid-terms, tests, quizzes, etc. You may personally prefer one or the other but you don’t get to just “skip” it because you don’t like it and expect to graduate.
5) Tuition does not equal graduation – unless it is what is referred to as a “for-profit university”, don’t expect to magically get your diploma just because your tuition check cleared. Quality schools expect quality work. (ie same for academies).
Before asking your professor (at university or the dojo) if you are ready for promotion/graduation, evaluate your own performance and progress using these criteria.