Black belt tests at Master Martial Arts are held only every six months, usually late on a Friday
afternoon to allow friends and family to attend. Adults and teens generally test separately from
young kids, both because there are fewer and less stringent requirements for kids and because
they have trouble sitting still for the longer adult tests. In recent years, Master Um has
also separated testing for first degree black belt from higher-level black belt tests, to keep each test
under an hour.
First degree black belt tests are comprehensive tests of everything learned up to that point: every
vocabulary word, kicking combination, and form. The student must prepare a demonstration of self-defense
techniques, and write a two-page report on the science of martial arts. The student must also spar
with a number of different partners during the test, demonstrating proper form and legal (from a
WTF Taekwondo sense) sparring techniques. Finally, the student must perform several board breaks.
Second and third degree tests are less arduous. They require demonstration of new black belt forms
and one or two previous forms, with expected improved precision. They require sparring, self-defense,
and advanced board breaks (or, in the case of third degree, breaking multiple stacked tiles).
There has only been one fourth degree test at Master Martial Arts. Fourth degree is Master level,
so the test is, like first degree, a comprehensive exam. It requires proficiency in all of the forms
from yellow belt through fifth degree black belt; all of the kicking combinations; extensive
self-defense; and multiple board breaks. Master may choose to include only a subset of these
requirements during the formal test, but the student must demonstrate all to Master's satisfaction
before the formal test.
The black belt has one gold stripe near one end for each degree, and has the student's name (in
Korean characters) embroidered on it. The belt is made in Korea, so it takes weeks to arrive. The student
also receives a certificate, suitable for framing, from the Korea Taekwondo Association.