Credentialing

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by skribs, Jun 6, 2018.

  1. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    The subject of credentialing (being able to prove you are capable of teaching what you say you are) has come up in several threads recently, such as:
    • Ranks are meaningless
    • I used to think ranks are meaningless, but now I need one for bureaucratic reasons and I'm lower rank than I need
    • My master in (Art 2) promoted me in (Art 1)
    • My art doesn't have ranks and I need a certificate in order to teach a class at a particular location
    Now, I don't want to have the discussion about how having a rank system in your art is meaningless/meaningful. I'm more curious about how a prospective student - especially an uninitiated student - would be able to assess the level of mastery an instructor has based on their credentials.

    For example, a black belt in Taekwondo is usually a 3-5 year process. It was 23 months for myself, but I was also on a special apprenticeship and spent 20+ hours a week at the dojang for those last 11 months, and I had around 4 years of training as a kid. So really, even though it took me 23 months to go white to black at my current school, it was about 6 years of training total, and if you assume 150 hours as a year's worth of training (3 classes a week for 50 weeks), I did the equivalent of probably 6 years worth of training during those 11 months.

    To be more specific, it usually takes a minimum of 2.5-3 years, and most people take around 4-5 years to get their black belt (not including McDojos).

    Now compare that to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. According to a brief internet search, it's a minimum of 5.5 years to get your black belt in BJJ, and usually around 10 years.

    Going back to Taekwondo, to go up a dan grade, you must do as many years as your current grade. So a 1st Dan takes a minimum of 1 year to get 2nd Dan, a 2nd Dan two years to get 3rd dan, etc. BJJ, on the other hand, it's the amount of years is equal to the rank you're going for (i.e. 2 years to get 2nd Dan, 3 years to get 3rd Dan).

    So a person who has been training Taekwondo for 15 years may be a 4th or 5th degree black belt, but someone who has been training BJJ for 15 years may only be a 2nd or 3rd degree black belt.

    Where I see this becoming an issue is if I'm a new student who knows nothing about martial arts, and I see that there's a Taekwondo School with a 5th degree instructor and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school with a 2nd degree instructor, which school do I think is more qualified to teach martial arts? Even though they may have around the same amount of training and (all other factors being equal) are likely just as competent as each other, the layman will see a big difference in training under a 5th degree than a 2nd degree.

    To expand on this, let's take an art that doesn't have belt ranks or even certificates. How do you advertise your proficiency as a martial artist or instructor to prospective students? How can they verify your claims?

    I'm just curious how arts that have a higher standard for black belt or who don't have ranks at all justify their seeming lack of credentials to the general public when advertising for classes.

    Please note that I'm not saying that these instructors are not qualified to teach. I'm talking about 3 martial artists who all have similar skill levels in their respective arts, but due to the way the art is set up, their ranks are different.
     
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  2. oldwarrior

    oldwarrior Green Belt

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    That is a good one

    To instruct in any of the arts without ranking I would think that they should have some form of paperwork (scroll or licence) from the school ...

    As for checking that might prove to be a bit more difficult. Some schools can be very very secretive over who has what and where ...however if it is a fairly well known art then the lineage should be checkable up to a point and with the modern world fakes are not that long in being outed.

    I don't know about other arts but in my arts my ranks are recorded and numbered ...I don't know about others but I do not hold and have never sought to teach so I do not hold a licence
     
  3. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    This is all a artificial problem. The only reason people care about ranks is that they have been told to care about ranks. Would you have the same sorts of issues in a dance school? A Yoga studio? A crossfire gym? Do you know your doctors educational history and GPA? How about your lawyers? When you go to a restaurant do you first ask where the chef studied culinary arts and to what level?

    If you are advertising based on your credentials you are missing the mark completely. Advertising is about the person doing you are advertising too, not the person doing the advertising. People will care about what you can do for them more then how many stripes you have on your belt.
     
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  4. jobo

    jobo Senior Master

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    the short answer is you can't tell and nor past a certain point does the ability of the instructor matter as long as he has mastery of the techniques he is teaching,
    .if some place you want to teach at requires a black belt, go and buy a blackbelt, easy, then you can say you have one,
     
  5. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    Let's take each of those:
    • Dance school - I would want to know that my dance instructor didn't just find a few videos on youtube and open his own school
    • Yoga studio - I would want to know my Yogi didn't just take a few Yoga classes and look up a bunch of poses on Wikipedia
    • Crossfire gym - what even is that?
    • Doctor's educational history and GPA - GPA no, but I don't see how that's relevant to the discussion. Education history yes. Their degree is usually in their name (i.e. Jason Smith, M.D.)
    • Lawyers - Lawyers usually advertise where they got their law degree, especially if it's from a fancy school like Yale or Harvard.
    • Restaurant - I'll look at reviews of the food or listen to people say the place is good. I don't normally know the chef, but the brand. Now, if I was taking culinary classes, I'd want to know some credentials. Maybe not where they went to school, but at the very least what makes them qualified to teach the class.
    People care what you can do for them. Someone with a lot more experience and wisdom in the art can do a lot more for you than someone without that experience. Most of the students at my school like me, and I can teach them most of what they need to know, but there is a clear gap in skill and in teaching ability between me and my Master, and the vast majority of that is experience.

    I'm not specifically talking about ranks. I'm talking about how do you advertise that your instructors have an amount of experience?
     
  6. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    This is a great conversation, but in the real world it’s irrelevant to 99% of the prospective students IMO. Where do most people who train go? To the closest and most convenient school most often. Convenient meaning fitting their schedule. And price has a lot to do with it too. As long as the teacher is a “nice guy/lady” and aligns with what personality they’re drawn to, it’s a done deal.

    A big part is also word of mouth...
    “I was thinking about me and my kid starting karate.”
    “My kids go to X and love it. The teachers are so good with them. The price is a little higher, but it’s worth it. It’s the best place in the area.” (Even though that’s the only place they looked into, and it’s the best because the person who referred them thought it was)
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2018
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  7. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    How do you go about finding out about a carpenter or a mason? Due diligence.
    How do you go about finding out about a babysitter or a house sitter? Due diligence.
    How do you go about finding out about an HAVC technician? Due diligence.
    How do you go about finding out about a vehicle repair technician? Due diligence.
    How do you go about finding out about...Whatever? Due diligence.
    Buyer beware...It is incumbent on the buyer to use due diligence to find out about a martial arts instructor/school just as you would with most anything else you spend your money on.
     
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  8. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    As far as “credentials”...

    Credentials are only as good as the credentialing body/person. My teacher was promoted to 7th dan by Tadashi Nakamura of former Kyokushin fame. Nakamura was one of Mas Oyama’s top students, promoted to 7th dan at a younger than normal age by Oyama, completed the 100 man kumite, fought in Thailand, etc., and sent to the US to start Kyokushin here. Without seeing him nor knowing anything else, those credentials are pretty hard to discount.

    There’s a local guy here running a Judo club. He was a silver medalist in the Barcelona Olympics, competed in 2 other Olympics, and has competed in and won numerous prestigious international tournaments. He’s coached several Olympic teams and international competitors. Those are solid credentials.

    There’s a local sensei who recently closed her dojo for health reasons. She was promoted to 1st dan in the 80s by a very well known and respected karate teacher. Her 2nd-4th dan promotions came from a mail order promotion group. Her 5th-8th dan promotions came from her own school. I’m still trying to figure that one out. So she’s an 8th dan, and my teacher’s a 7th dan, so she’s a step better. Sure. And I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I’m selling. And n all honestly she’s a good teacher. Nothing to brag about, but I’ve seen far worse. Certainly not what my expectations of an 8th dan teacher should be. Maybe what I expect from a 4th-5th dan (if that’s even really quantifiable). I say that because I would be suspicious if she claimed those ranks;above that, and I’d look into it like I did.

    The head of my former organization was recently promoted to 9th dan. He was promoted by a panel of independent karate teachers. I posted here about this panel and their methods a while back. Pretty much everyone who replied said the panel wasn’t very credible, they were a bunch of people who just got together to promote each other, etc. That was counter to everything I stated they did, and nothing was going to change their minds. Then I mentioned Chuck Merriman is an advisor to their panel, and everyone’s opinion changed instantly. A credential is only as good as the credentialing board. Have a guy like Chuck Merriman, and it’s easily accepted by anyone who’s familiar with the name. Don’t have someone like that, and it’s usually suspect.
     
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  9. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    And how does a carpenter or mason get hired for contracts? Due diligence.

    It's a 2-way street, and you can only control what is going in your direction.

    ETA: Seeing someone put forth the effort into their advertising helps me as a potential customer. I'm not talking about a super flashy website or a ton of videos on YouTube. I'm talking if I go to your website, facebook, or go into your office and get a flier, that I will have enough information to make an informed decision.

    So if I go to a Taekwondo school and all I get is "Master Smith" with no rank and no idea what organization he's ranked in, that's a lot different than "Master Jones, ranked 6th degree in ATA and 5th degree in KKW." Maybe they're both the same rank, I don't know, but just seeing that he is credentialed by an association will help.

    That's the reason I started this thread. If I see "Taekwondo under Master Smith, 6th degree in ITF", "Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Master Johnson, 3rd degree in IBJJF" and "Kung Fu under Master Jones", even if all 3 have similar levels of experience, which school am I going to check out first?

    If I've checked out the first school and I like it, then I may not bother to check the others out. I've already started learning TKD, why bother switching to BJJ, especially if the guy is only a 3rd degree?
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2018
  10. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple Senior Master

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    But that's the thing, most novices to MA aren't actually looking at the degree or accreditation. They see the 3 schools, they may glance at "okay, 6th degree...3rd degree...Kung Fu master...", and not look any more than that. More often than not, they will then say "oh that style looks/sounds cool/legit, I'll check them out", or "they're schedule is 7-830 each night, that works better for me than the 6-7 3 times a week", or "They cost $95, that school costs $125". Those are generally on people's minds before the question of rank. Then when they go to the place, their focus is on how friendly and/or impressive the person seems, and how much they enjoy the first class.

    And for the people who do focus on rank, they're likely also the ones who will go online looking up "what should I watch out for", and hear all the things about high level BBs being frauds, and running mcdojos, and who knows what they will choose then.

    So no, credentialing is not nearly as important as someone might think.

    As an answer, since that was on a tangent and didn't really address the OP: Something I've seen is people putting down "trained 25 years in X". To me that looks less impressive, since I can claim "trained 20 years in martial arts", and be entirely truthful, but that's still misleading (7 of those were before I was 10, some of the years I did not train all that much, some of the years I was on overdrive).
     
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  11. oldwarrior

    oldwarrior Green Belt

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    All very interesting answers an comments.

    The bit about how do you advertise experience that I do not think you can do ...that really has to come by word of mouth.

    Is or are there no ad folks on this forum and ask them how they'd put together a flyer etc then see how it stacks up to what the MA on here would think

    or maybe OP do a flyer or a few and open that up to discussion
     
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  12. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    The thing my advertising should to is to pique your interest in contacting us. I want you to be able to speak with you about your needs, goals, aspirations. I want to develop a rapport with you and create value for you. I have found very few people who ask about or are even concerned about my rank or even what I teach.
    Number 1 question...How much does it cost? And usually by the time they sign up that isn't the number 1 concern at all.
    Most don't have enough knowledge to know what to ask so what do they know...they know it is going to cost something and that is what they ask.

    I want to create a sense of a relationship that the potential student wants to be in and seldom has rank ever been discussed or questioned.
     
  13. marques

    marques Master Black Belt

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    Easy. Each one is the most qualified in his field.
    Usually people say how many years’ experience or relevant instructors/organisations. They can also show something on YouTube (the only I care). When I was instructor, it was quite easy because people knew me.
    It is relative. At some point, being brown belt in BJJ was great because they were few (and still are relatively to other popular arts). If one day there are many black belts (as many as students that completed 3 years training), then black belt becomes just a belt. And we will be looking for how many dan.

    Again, if no belts, I have seen instructors claiming extensive experience (training, teaching, military...) or having the ‘best’ masters or being part of ‘prestigious’ organisations.
     
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  14. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    Yeah, when I was a kid, we had only a handful of black belts at my school. As far as I'm aware, there was the Master and his wife, and one guy got his black belt while I was there. I took classes at a satellite school under the wife, so I don't know if the master had more black belts.

    At the school I'm at now, I've seen at least three people get their 3rd degree black belt. Not including the Master and his family, we have somewhere around 25-30 active black belts, half of which are 2nd degree black belts, and are going to get another 10-12 later this week at our semi-annual black belt testing.

    When I was a kid, "black belt" was the top. Now I see a huge difference between 1st and 2nd degree, 2nd and 3rd degree, etc.
     
  15. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    Depends on who is asking and how much accurate knowledge they already have about Martial Arts.
    Proficient in Martial Arts Application - Spar / fight and show that you are legit. The only problem with this is that most people don't care about being able to fight using a Martial Arts Fighting System. Especially parents with young children.

    I don't have a certificate as an Instructor. For me my advance to that position was totally based on my ability and understanding of Martial Arts application. For anyone who has doubts of my abilities, I can not only back that up, but I have also trained others to be good with the Martial Arts Skills sets that were being trained in the school. That's all of the credentials most people who are interested in using martial arts as a self-defense care about.

    If I were to open a school up today, it would be what I do, what I teach, my experience in teaching, and a few of my sparring and forms videos. I may even give a short lesson to give people an idea of my teaching style and how I teach. People will either feel good about it and want to join or they will feel bad about it and leave For me it's less about proving my credentials and more about showing what I have to offer vs what another school or instructor has to offer.

    I have never had anyone doubt my ability or call me a fake so I must be doing something right in the way that I teach others. From there it's just word of mouth.
     
  16. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    I have never seen a ad from any of those that promoted their lineage in the way some martial artists like. Yes, you can go in and ask if you want, but in advertising? Never.

    And crossfire is crossfit after auto correct gets a hold of it...
     
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  17. Andrew Green

    Andrew Green Grandmaster

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    They are completely separate sports, why would a rank to compassion even come in to play?

    I'd not look at whether the local hockey coach was a level 3 coach vs the local basketball coach being a level 2 coach. I'd decide if I want to play hockey or basketball and go with that.

    Your potential students don't care about rank or understand what it means until you tell them to care.
     
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  18. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    Because people know the difference between basketball and hockey. To the layman they're all "karate".
     
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  19. oldwarrior

    oldwarrior Green Belt

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    That is something that is very true ...we all can differentiate but to the layman Karate is the one all know as it was probably the first one to be promoted and advertised in the "west"

    I said before that it would be interesting in getting and advertising pros opinion on this as it may differ from what those who are already students of the arts

    I have no teaching quals ...i don't really seek to teach (although I have to a few private friends and I did do self defense classes to some women when I was pushed to it didn't last as well they were looking for the secrets skills to defeat anything ...that another story though lol) as my ranks are not high enough and I have not graded in years as that is not what interests me now ...but that said if I did decide to teach then I would be looking at doing targeted marketing doing market research and the basic business start up things. Even to the etent of looking at the area and surrounding areas are there any special conditions ie is there a high violence rate and crime rate and who is it predominantly against and there by possibly gearing any advertising to that area ...Personally I would not emphasize my rankings but in the dojo or hall if it were mine they would be there to view (not as a ego boost) but just to show that I do have them (that is assuming that the potential students can read Japanese lol)

    If I was teaching a pure art to people then I would personally mention the lineage but more than likely not on any flyers they have to be what grabs the initial interest. I also try an get in there that there will be a demo for those to come and see and to make sure that it not all dan ranks that are taking part as that to me can give a false sense to any beginner I like another post said would offer a short intro class to not only give students a taste but also to get the feel of the class (again that class I would make sure that it did have different grades within it so not are all "experts" (loose term) ...I would at some point go full on and let the students see the art at full speed and force so they could then judge better and that would not be at a demo but at a class (to me a demo is like a flyer has to be eye catching to spur interest and as those that have turned up are interested it has to be fueled so it gotta be flashy not the mundane or the over technical) After the first short class I would look for feedback from the group

    advertising to me has to be eye catching and draw the eye not contain to much detail but enough to spark the initial contact ...but never forget the free advertising that is word of mouth and if at a dojo or a hall a simple sign outside can do wonders

    All just my random thoughts though
     
  20. pdg

    pdg Senior Master

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    I don't like the idea of a demo for potential students - I personally feel it's not the right introduction.

    At a public event (village fayre or the like) it's a bit different, but in class it's more hassle than it's ever worth.

    You'd find yourself either doing a demo most weeks for people you never see again, or losing loads of interest because "oh yeah, we've got a demo scheduled in 5 weeks, come along" will just make people go down the road where they can start in two days.

    Then there's the misleading aspect of it - at what point do you tell them it might take years before they can do the same?

    Same thing with a short intro session, especially if it's one on one. Unless that's how you run things normally of course.

    At the school I attend, any new students just join in a regular class - first two are free. Generally a senior student will join them after the warmup, but even that's not unusual and reserved for introduction lessons - it's ongoing like that.


    As for the "it's all karate to the layman" - I think that's at least 20 years out of date for the majority, and even fewer who go as far as to enquire are that uninformed.

    This is based on my own experience - I do a fair amount of work quote visits after class, so I turn up in my dobok (or at least dobok trousers and club shirt) and I've never had anyone misidentify and ask "is it karate?", at 'worst' they ask what I do.

    White trousers they generally identify TKD quite reliably, black trousers they tend to ask, occasionally going (correctly) for kickboxing.

    That can't be down to the club exposure either, because they also usually ask "do you do that locally?" and there are quite a variety of available arts in the area.
     

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