Tests in general are not a part of traditional Muay Thai. The traditional path was that you earn your Thai Shorts, and that is it. After that, you are what you are - either good or not at MT. But us westerners adapt and change things to suit our needs.
I have been in many discussions over the years about the pro's and con's of testing in MT. For a guy like me who will never get into the squared circle, it is probably the closest thing I will ever have to a fight. After showing our instructors all of our techniques and the flow for who knows how many rounds, we spar and do some more conditioning to show that we are in shape. Our tests really are exhausting.
I used to worry about them a lot more than I do now. But the fact of the matter is that if you have been to classes on a regular basis, you will pass the test. If you suck in the test the instructor will usually call you out, but I have never seen anyone fail. Typically, they do not let you test unless they feel you can succeed.
Sounds convoluted, but that is the way my gym works. It is universally known that we have the best MT instructors in the area at my gym, so I play by their rules. Testing is a good way to keep people focused and to keep your curriculum organized. On the other hand, there really is no such thing as rank or testing in MT. So there you have it. Problem UNsolved.
I have to admit I like advancing on the "color chart" of sashes at the gym and you get an interesting unsaid bit of respect from the beginners when you show up and strap on that sash that indicates that you have been around for a while. It hasn't changed me or my attitude a bit though. I try to be especially nice and helpful to the newbies, as I know that they are the revenue stream for my gym (so are tests - $50 each person) and I simply don't know what I would do if the gym closed. This is very UNlike how I was treated by the advanced guys when I started out 2.5 years ago. They would routinely beat me up and treated me like shit. But screw them, most (all?) of those guys are long gone and I am improving since I spend so much time in the gym. I would wager that if all of those guys showed up today I would put some kind of beating on them if we sparred. Don't get me wrong, there are some guys that have been at the gym who have been there longer than myself who have always been great. But most of them had their own little cliques and wouldn't be bothered by a beginner just trying to learn basics. I feel it is the duty of the advanced people to teach and help.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Receiving my black sash in another 3-4 years will be a big event for me. By that time, I will be the third or fourth in the gym to have that distinction. Speaking of black sashes and belts, I noticed this story today from South Korea. Yep, The One gets a TKD black belt to go along with his Nobel Peace Prize.
Nice. I would think it is disrespectful to even begin to think of accepting an award like this to all of the other guys who have been practicing TKD for many years, and don't have their black belts yet. I will note that the Prez has his right hand down - that stance (and TKD in general, imho) is so seventies. But I digress.
Hopefully this is some sort of honorary black belt. Many people take sashes and belts very seriously and train very hard to achieve those goals. It isn't that big of a deal for me to move up the color scale, but it does show progression at my gym. Accepting a black belt (if real) by our President is akin to me kicking the golf ball out of the woods for relief when not allowed. Sure your score is lower on your golf scorecard, but you know in your head that you did not earn that par, birdie, or whatever. Obama may be the holder of a black belt, but in the end he knows as much about martial arts as I do about being the President - which is to say, nothing.