One of our requirements this summer was to go to one of the TKD belt testing days, and watch how they do it. I was in Boston during the last set of tests, so this Saturday off I went.
It was very different from my sensei's testing. First off, it was huge. Forty people, ranging from second dans testing for third, to tiny tots testing for their first stripe (They get five, and then they graduate to the regular kids' class as a white belt). We were there four hours watching tests.
They started with the black belts. I was mostly not impressed. Of the half-dozen testing, only one (the youngest of them all) had what I would consider good form. The dojo head corrected them as a group at least once - for having their thumbs hanging out during knife hand strikes! Two of them were hardly chambering their kicks at all, and only the one really chambered hard and well.
The two testing for promotion to first dan were worse. I would - personally speaking - have knocked them down a rank or two for their performances, not promoted them. Ironically they both very nearly failed for failing to break the required boards, but each managed after a dozen-plus tries. I would have failed them at the first form. Neither of them could make a decent fist! One had her thumb straight - sticking out past her knuckles. The other had loose hands, and a cocked wrist. Neither of them could have punched anything hard without injuring themselves. Sensei bawls out white belts for form breaks less egregious.
Interestingly the lower belts generally looked better. Why, I'm not sure. But most of the lower belt testees seemed appropriately skilled for the levels they were testing for. Did they change teaching styles recently or something?
At least now I know why facing the TKD black belts in kumite has never particularly fazed me. If I can block their feet (and I have pretty sharp defense), they have nothing up top to threaten me with. Though if we keep sharing classes on the weekend, that may change.