If your art has tests, are they cumulative or do your students brain dump?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by skribs, Dec 4, 2017.

  1. skribs

    skribs Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    98
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Lakewood, WA
    My master teaches two arts - Taekwondo and Hapkido. In our Taekwondo class, there are lots of requirements for each belt test, and at several points there exist a "brain dump" where certain techniques are no longer tested. For example, earlier forms, simpler punch and kick combinations, and previous self defense drills that were tested on. These are of course replaced by newer forms, more complicated combinations, and new defense drills that use different situations and usually higher difficulty.

    There ends up being more on the Red belt test than the Purple belt test, and while the degree of difficulty and the complexity are higher, the number of tested items remains relatively the same.

    On the other hand (pun unintended), the hapkido class is cumulative, in that we are tested on 27 techniques at White belt, learn 7 new ones for yellow belt (total of 34 for that test), 4 new ones (38 total) for our next belt, and by the time you get to black belt, you have over 90 things to remember on the test.

    I'm a 2nd degree black belt (getting close to 3rd) in Taekwondo, and an orange belt in Hapkido. It's interesting to see that in Taekwondo, very few people remember ALL of the test requirements. Every black belt can provide advice on individual techniques and assist with class, but very few could lead a class and say "this is your form, this is your combinations," etc. In fact, I think I'm one of the only black belts that does remember ALL of the testing requirements for every test.

    Now, if we were to change that, and require everyone to remember everything, then we'd have to truncate our curriculum, or the tests would take several hours to go through everything, so I understand the reason for this. However, in our Hapkido class, anyone can teach the requirements to a lower belt, because we need to know it for our next test. We have 7 keub ranks, and a 1st or 2nd keub will know the 7th and 6th keub requirements very well, because they're still practicing them.

    I'd like to hear your thoughts. If you have tests, does your school do a brain dump, or do you have cumulative requirements? How well do you feel it would work if you switched? If you don't have tests, which style would you prefer if your school introduced a testing system?
     
  2. Blindside

    Blindside Senior Master

    • Founding Member
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2001
    Messages:
    4,917
    Likes Received:
    558
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    Kennewick, WA
    When I did testing as a Kenpo instructor our tests were cumualative and Kenpo has a crapload of stuff to memorize. I see no point in having a test not being over the sum of what they have learned in the system. You might not have have to demonstrate everything, but the testee should know that they can be tested on anything.

    That said, I am so glad I don't do tests anymore.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. skribs

    skribs Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    98
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Lakewood, WA
    That's an interesting take.

    Of course, to some degree, you are continuing to test on the same skills. For example, a white belt might be tested on a roundhouse kick, but a red belt would be tested on combinations that include roundhouse kick. A white belt will be tested on a simpler form, whereas the red belt has more complex forms, which use the techniques from Form 1. A purple belt will test on kicks with new (for them) footwork, whereas at more advanced belts we'll use that footwork in class all the time, so there's no real need to test it. For the most part it's not about forgetting the individual techniques, but about the specific combinations and patterns that you ran as a lower belt.
     
  4. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2015
    Messages:
    2,338
    Likes Received:
    1,135
    Trophy Points:
    353
    Location:
    In the dojo
    Both karate organizations I’ve been in were cumulative. I was preparing for my 2nd dan test in my previous organization when I left for grad school, which was 2002. When I tested for 1st dan, my sensei had the syllabus rolled up and in his belt on his back, like a football coach with their practice agenda. He looked at it from time to time to make sure EVERYTHING was covered. We basically retook every kyu test over again that day. Only the standard and intensity were significantly greater.

    I’m a 3rd kyu in my current organization. Every test is cumulative. I’ve directly heard and overheard dan tests are all cumulative too.

    Classes are cumulative, so it just makes sense that tests are as well. There are several 3rd and 4th dans in some of the classes I take. They do white belt forms alongside the rest of us. They do kyu-level standardized stuff alongside the rest of us.

    The further we progress, the less we do lower level stuff. It becomes more of a warmup, in a sense. But if it’s a higher rank student in a lower rank class, they’ll do the lower rank stuff just as much. Black belt specific class at my former school did mainly black belt level stuff, but we still did kyu stuff too. I’m pretty sure it’s the same way at my current school, but I’ll have to wait a bit to confirm that :)

    When the syllabus is cumulative, you’re constantly polishing the basics. The better your basics, the better your advanced stuff IMO.

    Tests get longer as we advance in rank. During a test, we may not do every single kata, but we do every one for the last few ranks and most of them overall. Some kata aren’t very different from others, such as the first 3 we learn, so we’ll usually do a random few. We have 18 kata before 1st dan, so we don’t do every single one of them. But you never know which ones you’ll be asked to do. Actually, the person running the test probably doesn’t know exactly which ones he/she’ll ask you to do until that moment. But you know you’re going to do most of them, and you really don’t want to gamble on which ones.

    The other standardized stuff, they typically go right in order.

    Kyu tests go 1-2 hours, increasing with rank. Dan tests in my current organization are held over 4-5 two-three+ hour sessions.

    I wouldn’t like not being tested on previously tested material nor not doing it anymore. There’s always room for improvement. To me, it’s a matter of how much and what to keep working on, not when to stop.
     
  5. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Messages:
    10,174
    Likes Received:
    1,306
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    San Francisco
    It seems to me that if the material is codified as part of the formal curriculum, then it should be retained forever and potentially tested in any subsequent test. Otherwise, have you retained or learned anything? Later aspects of a system should be built upon earlier aspects, and all parts contribute to a well-designed system. Hopefully.

    There might be other things, certain punching combinations that are frequently mixed up and changed to keep people sharp and nimble, but these drills might not be codified into the formal curriculum. Those may or may not be on a test and could be forgotten because over time there could be quite a lot of these, depending on how creative the instructor is. But that is ok if everyone understands that these are spontaneous drills that are open to ones creativity and imagination.
     
  6. Charlemagne

    Charlemagne Black Belt

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2016
    Messages:
    660
    Likes Received:
    226
    Trophy Points:
    58
    Location:
    Texas, USA
    New stuff is cumulative and previous stuff is spot checked for retention and increased ability on things that should have improved. Of course, the instructor can see who is improving on things in regular training as well.
     
  7. oftheherd1

    oftheherd1 Senior Master

    Joined:
    May 12, 2011
    Messages:
    3,831
    Likes Received:
    567
    Trophy Points:
    263
    That is quite different from the Hapkido I learned. We had 44 techniques at white belt, 54 at yellow belt, 27 at blue belt, then 78 at red belt. We did not do cumulative testing at each belt. However, before out practice black belt test, we did go through the entire series of techniques, many times. Then when the GM thought we were ready,we took our black belt practice test in our dojang. We then continued to practice until our real black belt test at the Association headquarters in Seoul, and earned out black belt and our certificates were sent to our GM for presentation of the black belt and certificate. A proud moment. Although we didn't test cumulatively, we kept up by teaching lower belts.

    As it happened, although I had watched a testing at the Association, I wasn't able to test there due to a renovation and the contractor not living up to the times of the contract. Each GM had to do his own testing using his own masters, and report that to the Association. I think many of us in the Association had to wait about 3 or more months to test while the Association continued to work with the contractor. I was more than ready!
     
  8. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

    • LifeTime Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2009
    Messages:
    13,814
    Likes Received:
    2,914
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    Pueblo West, CO
    We're cumulative. We expect students to not only practice their current stuff, but everything leading up to that point. At any test, they are expected to be able to perform the lower rank material BETTER than they did at that rank. By that I mean that a form that was good enough when you were testing for 9th geup will not be good enough when you're testing for 8th.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. skribs

    skribs Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    98
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Lakewood, WA
    I'm curious how big your schools are.

    The Taekwondo school I went to as a kid, we basically had 1 class at each location, so a class would include all age groups and we would have all belts practicing together. We had maybe 20-30 students at each location, so maybe 50 students total.

    The school I'm at now has probably 150-200 active students, and we have classes specific for each belt color for the kids and then classes broken up into beginners (12th - 9th keub) and Advanced (8th - 1st Keub) for the adults, and then separate classes for kids and adult black belts. We still have 10-30 students in each class.

    So I'm not trying to say, "my school is bigger, so our method is better". I'm just putting into context that when we're teaching the green belts, there are no white belts for us to go through the white belt part of the curriculum with. So unless we specifically practiced the white belt patterns* in the green belt class, they are generally only going to practice the green belt stuff.

    In a smaller school, where everyone practices together (like my old school), then it makes sense that you'd be practicing the entire curriculum, because you'd be training with the lower belts in class.

    *I say "white belt patterns" to differentiate from the white belt foundations. We still practice the basic punches and such. However, we are not going to have our green belts spend class time on a form that only includes down blocks and punches (the first basic form), when their form has everything that basic form has and more.
     
  10. Balrog

    Balrog Master of Arts

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2007
    Messages:
    1,509
    Likes Received:
    256
    Trophy Points:
    123
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    I require my students to stay current on all forms, one-steps and sparring segments from White Belt up to their rank. At any rank from Yellow on up, they are liable to be asked at testing to do some low rank stuff and they lose points if they can't perform.

    At Brown and Red Belt, they must sign off with an instructor on the low rank forms to get permission to test. At 1st Degree Recommended, their mid-term testing will demonstrate the entire curriculum from White Belt on up.
     
  11. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

    • MartialTalk Mentor
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2011
    Messages:
    6,661
    Likes Received:
    3,845
    Trophy Points:
    448
    Location:
    Maui
    When I held tests, everybody in the dojo, including white belts of just a month, and black belts of years, were allowed to participate in that particular test/workout.
    I did so as a courtesy to the students. Most were taking part as "practice", so they knew what to expect in a test. The tests were held during regular class hours and I wasn't about to cancel a workout for a test. The test nights were wildly considered the best workouts of the year. And if you didn't take part, you were strongly encouraged to come watch. Bring your family if you want, and your friends, and all tests were open to the public.

    Results of the test were posted on the board the next night.

    Anything might be covered. There was no dumping of anything. If you knew it and could do it a year ago, you better know it now. [I really don't see how anyone couldn't]

    Sometimes testing did take several hours. But since all belts were testing together, every hour or so certain lower belts were done and would be bowed out. They would usually sit down and watch the rest.

    On a personal note, my favorite thing about testing students was watching how much they supported each other during testing. Tests were high energy, high intensity, a whole lot of fun, and had the most people of any classes during the year. And they were LOUD.
    People testing would pick each other up, high five each other, encourage each other, help each other, yell for each other. It was awesome.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  12. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Messages:
    10,174
    Likes Received:
    1,306
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    San Francisco
    What is wrong with working through the white belt material in a class full of green belts?
     
    • Like Like x 3
  13. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2015
    Messages:
    2,338
    Likes Received:
    1,135
    Trophy Points:
    353
    Location:
    In the dojo
    Absolutely nothing IMO.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 2
  14. skribs

    skribs Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    98
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Lakewood, WA
    I think this is how my old school did tests. But this was like 20 years ago, and I was about 8 years old, so I don't remember too well. My school usually has 70-100 people test when we do belt tests. We have room for about 20 people comfortably in class, 32 if we're crammed in, and 50 if we really try. There's no way we could test everyone together unless we rented a gym or something.

    On the surface, nothing. But time devoted to that material takes away from time we can devote to green belt material, and we can't even cover all the green belt material every class.

    There's also the issue that a lot of the curriculum requirements for previous belts are sort of the training-wheels version of techniques. As purple belts we teach sliding kicks as step forward and kick, but as green belts we teach the faster skip-kick method for sparring. The White Belt form and the Green Belt form follow a similar pattern, but the Green Belt form allows us to work on stances and techniques that the white belts do not. A lot of our punching defenses from one belt are more complicated or higher difficulty versions of ones learned at a previous belt.

    While I understand working on foundations is important, I wouldn't put training wheels back on my bicycle. We still use the same techniques, we still isolate techniques or stances at times to focus on those and work on our foundations, and we still use a lot of the training methods they used in white belt class. We just don't require the same patterns and forms.
     
  15. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2015
    Messages:
    2,338
    Likes Received:
    1,135
    Trophy Points:
    353
    Location:
    In the dojo
    The school I train at has about 40 students total, with about half being kids. Kids and adults are separate classes.

    There’s a black belt specific class one night a week, and a green belts (4th kyu) and up class one night a week. The rest are all ranks class, separated by kids and adults.

    Our organization is very big, and our honbu (headquarters) dojo has I’ve heard about 500 students total. They separate kids and adults. There’s black belt specific classes, and the rest are pretty much all ranks. The only other type of class is sparring class where the student needs to meet rank criteria and instructor permission (different levels of contact).

    I’ve seen black belt class start at my dojo as I was leaving, and they did a white belt kata or two as a warmup, so it’s definitely not ignored even at that level. The general expectation is that all students train at least twice a week, so due to our schedule black belts would take at least one all ranks class a week.
     
  16. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2015
    Messages:
    2,338
    Likes Received:
    1,135
    Trophy Points:
    353
    Location:
    In the dojo
    Sounds like our kyu tests. They’re held at regular class time, and anyone is allowed to train during it. Our kyu tests are like class, only on steroids. The people testing are a staggered a few steps forward in line, all questions are directed at them, and they only do partner stuff and sparring with the higher ranks. The majority of the dojo shows up to support them, the teacher, and the testing process as a whole. It’s my favorite “class” even when I’m not testing. We’re small enough of a dojo to be able to do it this way.

    Dan tests are done at honbu under Tadashi Nakamura, so the rules change a bit. My teacher could dan test, but doesn’t because he wants us to test under Nakamura. We’re a little less than 3 hours away, so we have that luxury.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  17. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Messages:
    10,174
    Likes Received:
    1,306
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Ok, I guess to some degree this depends on what kind of material is formally codified as the curriculum.

    I agree that a kick, for example, should develop into a higher level technique and that a beginner may be practicing it in steps or segments until he is able to do it completely and fluidly with consistency. There could still be value in going back and isolating the components for focused practice from time- to-time, but I understand your point.

    Other material, a kata for example, is part of the curriculum and ought to be practiced regularly, even after more advanced kata are learned. I don’t understand why someone as a green belt would only practice his green belt kata, or why his green belt class would not continue to practice and critique and develop his white belt or yellow belt kata. If this stuff is part of the curriculum, then there should be valuable material in it so keep practicing and that should mean in class and in testing too.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2017
  18. Flying Crane

    Flying Crane Sr. Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Messages:
    10,174
    Likes Received:
    1,306
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Well, there is something to be said about keeping class size and testing group size small enough to be under control. That means there is enough room for everyone and that the teacher(s) are able to give each student quality instruction, which means some amount of attention and direct and personal feedback.

    Honestly, I cannot imagine how someone can give quality instruction, or a meaningful exam, to a group of 50 or 100 people at a time.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Like Like x 1
  19. skribs

    skribs Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    98
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Lakewood, WA
    In my middle school math classes we didn't do quizzes on 5 + 5, 10 - 3, and 3 x 3. We still exercised those skills when we did tests on 4x + 5 = 13, we would use subtraction and division in the process of those equations.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  20. skribs

    skribs Black Belt

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    694
    Likes Received:
    98
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Lakewood, WA
    Our warmup at our annual picnic requires a LOT of black belts to help organize everyone, and we only do the very basics.
     

Share This Page