One of the more common questions we ask ourselves in Jiu Jitsu is when should some one be promoted (namely ourselves)? For most of us the answer is simple, you are ready to get promoted when your instructor/professor feels you are ready. This is very vague and contrary to what we experience in life, especially when it comes to measurable, tangible acheivements. For example we know to get a college degree we need to take x classes and complete x credits. In order to qualify for something we usually need x score to pass. This is not the case in Jiu Jitsu, so it brings into question, is there a better way? In short the answer is no, what most associations and academies have in place, although subjective, is very good and I'll explain why.
As a student I have personally experienced the excitement of promotion day and the disappointment of being passed for promotion. I've had many long drives home wondering what the heck do I need to do to get promoted, quickly followed by anger, then embarrassment for feeling the way I did. After all Jiu Jitsu is supposed to make us better people and the belt shouldn't matter (but it does far too often).
As a teacher for the past eight years I have been on the other side of the coin. I have seen what goes into promotions and have been fortunate enough to be around people who taught me that Jiu Jitsu is more than being able to submit some one.
If Jiu Jitsu was purely a sport when some one was ready to compete at the next level we would automatically promote them. Fortunately Jiu Jitsu is a much more then a sport, it is a martial art. Most associations these days have set curriculums and minimum hours but this is only part of the equation. Although mat time and technique are important, they don't factor in much more important things things like integrity, discipline, respect and character.
People are paying us to teach Jiu Jitsu not be their life coach, wtf? This is 100% true but as an instructor I am much more concerned with a students life than how technical they can arm bar. For example, I've passed people up for purple belt promotions because I felt they were neglecting something in their life. When they were ready for the purple belt, and had the values and ethics I attached to that belt, they earned it and hopefully its a lesson that will last them a life time.
One thing I have learned in my journey is that although the belt seems like a great goal in the end, it's not about the belt. It's about the people you meet, the times you share and the lessons you learn. If you train long enough and listen to your instructor your belt will eventually change color. How longs will it take to get a black belt? Who cares, be the best you you can be, strive to be a black belt in life and that is worth more then any belt.