Testing and certification in martial arts are as important as exams and diplomas in schools and colleges, except that testing and certification do not by themselves constitute final goals in martial arts. Promotion to a higher rank is usually verified by an official certificate and is signified by the ranking of the belt. The ranking of the belt may reflect the result of a test, but a test is never taken solely to rise to a higher rank.
Although testing and certification are inseparable parts of karate practice, training solely for the sake of promotion is contrary to the spirit of martial arts. Testing is only a means of relating the ranking system to the requirements of the curriculum.
In karate-do, each successful test marks the end of one preparatory stage and the beginning of another leading to personal fulfillment and martial arts proficiency. While the purpose of an academic examination is to demonstrate competency for a specific task or position, the object of testing in karate-do is mainly self-assessment and assurance that one can proceed to a higher level of commitment and hard work.
Because of the great physical and emotional differences that exist among karate students, it is necessary to be able to assess individual strengths and weaknesses on a regular basis so that both individual progress and group instruction can be organized properly and efficiently. For this reason, IKA encourages its students to take their scheduled tests as soon as they satisfy their attendance and proficiency requirements. Although there are no other pre-qualifying requirements for testing, students are expected to seek permission from Soke and their instructors prior to registering for scheduled testing.
Official testing sessions for Kyu ranks are held quarterly. Testing for Dan grades is held annually.
Depending on the number of candidates and their ranks, an individual test may last from 15 minutes to several hours. Depending on the circumstances, the candidates may be tested either individually or in groups. Depending on the student's ranking, he/she may be asked to perform waza, kata, engage in kumite, demonstrate self-defense techniques or be asked questions about karate and related subjects. Although a large number of students pass their tests the first time, there are also those who are asked to wait until the next scheduled test.
According to IKA statistics, one out of every twenty karateka attains Shodan, one out of three shodans reaches Nidan, one out of three nidans reaches Sandan, and one out of three sandans attains Yondan.