Rank based on progress vs. merit, and/or when to switch

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by skribs, Sep 12, 2020.

  1. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    Messages:
    17,956
    Likes Received:
    3,683
    Trophy Points:
    308
    Location:
    Covington, WA
    Just to add a little more to what I was saying before, I like the discussion about various ways to objectively measure progress. But that's essentially what we're doing, whether we evaluate one's progress objectively based on purely on physical ability or on other things. I think there are a couple of things to consider:

    1: Objective standards are still arbitrary. What I mean is, even if they are objective, they are still made up by someone. If the standard is that someone can do 36 elements of one technique perfectly in a demonstration (or 360 different techniques). I can observe you doing these things, and if you do them all correctly, you warrant promotion. That's one perfectly valid way to evaluate progress. Another is based on performance, where technique is less of a priority than whether you can perform well against other people who are at a certain level (i.e., a BJJ blue belt who performs consistently well with BJJ purple belts). Some of those people are better at things than others, but over time, the belt levels are calibrated in several different ways that are not just technical. OR a combination of the above... or something else. The point is, if progress is measured in some way that is not specific to an individual, is not shrouded in mystery, and is observable, it's perfectly valid.

    2: Merit is simply progress based on the standards described above. If the standard is that you have to train for at least 6 months and attend 100 classes before you can be promoted to Teal Belt, and you do that, you are being promoted based on merit. You have earned that promotion by meeting the standard.

    So, when I say, this is a discussion about whether to choose Option A or Option A, it's just that. What it really seems like is that the OP is unclear about what the standards are for upper belts in his system.

    Personally, I don't think there's any problem with any standards, provided they are not subjective. If you give people black belts for showing up to at least 1 class per week for 12 months, regardless of how well you perform. The standard is clear and objective.

    On another note, from an inclusion stand point, I applaud schools and systems that have examined their standards and pared them back to what really matters. As we do in business where employees have impairments of various kinds, there are often ways to accommodate a physical or mental impairment without compromising the essential elements of a task or activity. I think this is particularly true in something like a martial art, where the vast majority of folks aren't looking to become professionals or elite athletes. Point being, if you put undue emphasis on element on pointing a toe the correct direction, you may lose sight of the fact that someone is delivering an effective side kick. Happens all the time in grappling, where someone may have a bum shoulder, and so executes a technique a little differently. Think about it like this. If you're saying that someone with an impairment will never attain a particular rank in your organization, I'd recommend making sure that the thing they cannot do actually matters. Whether one's feet are straight or one's hand is chambered at the exact right spot, as a disqualifying standard, seems a little unreasonable to me.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  2. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    Messages:
    17,956
    Likes Received:
    3,683
    Trophy Points:
    308
    Location:
    Covington, WA
    Well, not according to the OP. You may be able to practice and improve, but your progress in the art would stop because your knees are wonky and you can't point your toes in a particular direction. At least, this far into the thread, this is what I'm getting from his description of "merit."
     
  3. dvcochran

    dvcochran Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2017
    Messages:
    6,051
    Likes Received:
    1,783
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    Southeast U.S.
    This is the first sentence in the OP. Seems pretty far from what you are saying.
     
  4. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    Messages:
    17,956
    Likes Received:
    3,683
    Trophy Points:
    308
    Location:
    Covington, WA
    Quoting a sentence out of context is dishonest.

    We have a lot of context over almost 2 pages of posts.
     
  5. dvcochran

    dvcochran Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2017
    Messages:
    6,051
    Likes Received:
    1,783
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    Southeast U.S.
    I read the OP and subsequent posts more as concern about his own performance and the upper belts around him. It bordered on comparison that is counter productive to me. I like to think any of us who have worked a certain style for a long time can recognize good, effective form/technique. And as you said, without getting hung up on where their toe is pointed every time.
    To your point #2; I do not know of any school that promotes purely on time or number of classes. That would grossly show up during a legitimate testing. I suppose there are McDojo's that do it but hopefully most people have realized that dynamic just does not work. Time/classes is often a required element, and a good one to me, but not the sole component necessary. Definitely more of a commercial gym/class approach.

    I feel subjectivity based on one's experience has it's place. Most often in the more elite groups. Any swinging dxxk can have a bunch of certificates on the office wall. But does that necessarily mean they have done much? Sadly, no. I think this is a common reason for the differences in makeup of different schools. Some schools really cater to kids, some schools do not accept kids. That and the way some styles have been promoted over the years.

    We have two schools and have never separated age groups at large. We do separate at times within a class. But it is made imminently clear that first class is geared more for kids and second class is geared more for adults. We also have sparring only classes each week and senior belt classes 2-3 times/month. So the intent and tempo of classes will be very different. If someone comes in really out of shape we usually suggest they start out in the first class.
    For adult green belts and beyond, it is expected that you attend as many second classes as your schedule will allow. We have a quite a lot of industry in the two towns where our schools are and a lot of people work 2nd and 3rd shifts so some just cannot make second class. They get extra work in first class. So we have circled back to the personal efforts of both student and instructor.
     
  6. dvcochran

    dvcochran Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2017
    Messages:
    6,051
    Likes Received:
    1,783
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Location:
    Southeast U.S.
    Dishonest? I have no idea what you mean. That is literally his first sentence. And the following train of thought follows that comment. From there the comments have scattered as they usually do.
    Are you sure you have read the whole post?
     
    • Funny Funny x 1
  7. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    Messages:
    17,956
    Likes Received:
    3,683
    Trophy Points:
    308
    Location:
    Covington, WA
    I'm not getting into a qualitative discussion about the merits. My point is that, regardless of the specific criteria fo promotion, if a person meets it, their promotion is based on merit. If a person is promoted who does not meet the criterion, they are not promoted on merit.
    that's fine but it's a different topic altogether.

    All of the above reads to me like commentary on what you value, and again, this is fine. But that's your merit system. Other people value different things, and so their merit system reflects different priorities. This isn't a situation where one is better than the other. Your values in this case aren't better or worse than a person who promoted based on attendance.
     
  8. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    5,628
    Likes Received:
    1,338
    Trophy Points:
    263
    He won't change. His style is very much about learning by doing. There are sometimes I wish we would slow down on a few things and go over them in more detail, but he's more concerned with students burning out. This is one of the reasons I ask a lot of these questions here. It's also why I would like to start my own school soon, so I can do things my way. I've made suggestions in the past and they never took.

    2 days a week minimum. Before COVID, some students were doing 3-4 days per week. We sustained around 200-250 students for the entire time I've been there (except for COVID). We're sustaining probably around 100 right now. I think the model is keeping students.

    This is the question I was asking. To clarify, are you saying the switch happens to get your black belt, or after black belt? I think at my school, if there is a switch, it's after 2nd Dan...although there are a few things we learn at 3rd Dan that I wish I'd known sooner.

    Our curriculum is probably one of the densest there is. It's denser than anyone else's that I talked to. One of my fellow students had bounced around a lot due to his military service. He'd been at other schools, then our school (before my time), then bounced around again, and he's back again. He said that our school has more stuff on the tests than any other school he's been to. He also said when he did one of his dan tests, the GM told him afterwards that our Master has us do a lot of stuff.

    We have gup tests at our school, intermediate between dan ranks. I'm going to be going for 4th dan, so I have to get 4 gups between 3rd and 4th Dan (I'm testing for my 3rd Gup next month; or as I call it: Black Belt v3.3.) There's new stuff on every gup test. For this test, I need a new form (a variant on Pyongwon), and 7 new one-steps. This is in addition to everything else...

    There are some things that "did their best" is not the quality of work you want to hear. For example, "they did their best when they made this parachute." "They did their best to make sure this bridge is safe." When parents sign their kids up for martial arts, I'm sure they want some qualification other than "this instructor did their best."
     
  9. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    5,628
    Likes Received:
    1,338
    Trophy Points:
    263
    I'm learning guitar right now. I'm pretty terrible at it. I'm somewhere between beginner and intermediate on a good day. I don't know many songs or riffs. I'm not that quick. I have a lot of issues with my fundamentals (I tend to deaden notes way too early). When I'm learning a new song, I usually have to learn it at quarter-speed. Then after a week, I can do it at 1/3 speed. After another week, I can do it at half speed. Another week after that, maybe 75% speed. Then I start to plateau. It takes longer and longer for me to make progress. In this case, I've made progress relative to myself.

    Let's say the song is at 120 BPM. I may start playing it at 30 BPM. Then the next week at 45. Then 60. Then 75. Then 90. I'm making progress relative to myself. But I can't play along to the song, because I'm just not good enough yet.

    If I were to try out for a band, and I couldn't play that song at 120 BPM, I wouldn't get the gig. If someone wanted me to teach them the song, and I couldn't play the song correctly, then why would they want to learn from me? I've done my best. I've worked hard to learn the song. But it's too fast for me to play. I understand it, but I can't do it properly.

    It also doesn't really matter, for the sake of this song, whether I can do it at 120, 150, or 5000 BPM. The song is at 120, so as long as I'm capable of meeting that benchmark, I've met that benchmark. The same in martial arts. Your stances can only get so correct. A front stance with proper length, width, depth; alignment of feet, hips, shoulders; and proper posture can't be more correct. It can be easier. It can have more muscle memory. But the requirements have been met.

    I feel that a lot of my students in TKD are the same as I am with guitar. A white belt's kicks may be the skill level equivalent of me missing a bunch of notes while playing at 30 BPM. When that white belt can then improve their skill level, it's compared to themselves. But if they haven't yet reached that 120 BPM, does that mean they know it?

    Now, this is kind of a bad example, because as @dvcochran and @gpseymour have said, physicality has its limits, especially with age. (Or as @Dirty Dog says in his signature). But let's take a specific issue I've seen with a couple of students at my school. Both of them have bad timing on their tornado kicks. A proper roundhouse-tornado kick combo is right roundhouse kick, step down, pivot to the left, turn with the left knee up, and then jumping roundhouse kick with the right leg (or mirror for a left leg). However, they will do the right roundhouse kick, hop down, and then continue. This habit has stuck with them. It results in the kick being slower and less powerful, as well as harder to do.

    I've personally tried to break them of it, and they haven't understood it. There's a guy that started before me, that I passed. The other person is my mother. They are both black belts, although not as high as I am. They learned the forms and the curriculum. They do most of the stuff pretty well. This is just one thing that stands out. So here's the question: how can they teach people the proper tornado kick, if they don't know it themselves? This isn't a matter of their physicality. If anything, they're adding more physicality to it by doing the extra jump. It's simply a matter of improper technique.

    This is where the question of measuring progress against themselves vs. against a standard. They do make progress in their knowledge and correctness of technique (overall). However, there are a few techniques that have lagged behind. So at what point do you stop looking at overall progress, and start saying things like:
    • For this belt, everyone must have the proper timing on a tornado kick
    • For this belt, everyone must meet these metrics in your stances (most of the metrics are about correctness, not flexibility or strength)
    • For this belt, you must not have any of this list of bad habits
    In other words, when does the line to beat be compared to your previous self, vs. compared to a set benchmark that everyone must meet in order to qualify?
     
  10. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

    • Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    25,562
    Likes Received:
    7,492
    Trophy Points:
    448
    Location:
    Hendersonville, NC
    I don't understand that statement - literally, I can't parse it into what you meant it to communicate. Can you restate it for me?
     
  11. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    5,628
    Likes Received:
    1,338
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Some people have mastered every detail of the techniques by 3rd dan. For most of the people who have reached 3rd dan, there are at least a few techniques that they are missing some big details on, and/or a lot of techniques that they are missing some minor details on.

    We have a lot of techniques. Depending on how you break it down, I'd say we have around 25+ different kicks, 20+ different punches, and over a dozen blocks. That's not including the specific techniques in the forms that I haven't really found a viable real-world application for. That's not including the grappling techniques or weapon techniques we use. Right there, that's 45 different techniques to master. As I mentioned above, there can easily be 30+ details for each technique. Some of these techniques have multiple steps, such as a 360 hook kick. That adds more details to the technique in order to do it 100% correctly.

    In order to master all of those techniques (and not including the others), there are over 1500 details you need to commit to habit. If someone has 1400 of those details, that means they've still got room to grow.
     
  12. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    Messages:
    17,956
    Likes Received:
    3,683
    Trophy Points:
    308
    Location:
    Covington, WA
    Does TKD not have objective standards for the lower belts?

    If you're learning to play the guitar, there may be songs you'll never learn. You may not even have the manual dexterity to play more than rhythm. And so what? It's a hobby and there is literally no standard you're trying to meet. But if you want to get a job, you'll have to earn it. The standards of the job are completely arbitrary, set by the person doing the hiring, and you'll either meet that standard or you will not. Your level of improvement over some amount of time is your progress. Your ability to meet a standard at a given time is a snapshot of your progress in that moment.

    Now, when we talk merit, only way that really enters into the discussion is if you are saying some folks in your system are being promoted who do not meet the standard. If true, those folks have not been promoted based on merit. The only other real possibility is if you're saying that at a certain point, there is no standard. And based on your posts, that seems to be what you're suggesting... that at lower belts, there really isn't any standard and everyone is just gifted their belt at some point.

    In your example above, if the song is a hard standard, and you cannot play the song but get hired anyway, you did not get the gig based on merit. Maybe the lead singer is your brother. If you can play the song and get the gig, you earned the position based on merit. I don't think any band would hire a guitar player based on such a standard, but that's okay.

    One key distinction here is that in a school, we're talking about a standard that applies to many. In a band, you're talking about hiring a single person, many of whom could be fully qualified and hired based on merit. So, not quite apples to apples. In a hiring, at some point (presuming you have a pool of qualified applicants), you'll make a final decision based on something very subjective out of a group of people who all fully meet the standards.

    So, all of that to say, your questions aren't progress vs merit. That's the same thing, or more accurately, there is a causal relationship. If you progress far enough, you meet the standard are are promoted based on merit. But to your point about what standards to apply, I'd say you're thinking way too small. The standards should all logically lead to the betterment of the school and the style... whatever that means to the style. Would you not promote someone who is a good technician, a good teacher, and a good person because they can't do a tornado kick? Maybe so. But if that is your standard, and you promote this guy anyway, he didn't actually earn his promotion... and now you've got real problems. Your standards are not clear, and you are promoting folks without merit.

    And as I said before, I'm not a huge fan of standards that are so rigid as to say, "One must execute this technique perfectly before being promoted." Unless that's truly a deal breaker and in some way betters the art and promotes what you are trying to promote (whether that's growth of a school, sharing the style with a broader group, promoting diversity within the ranks... whatever it is). It is usually, unnecessarily exclusive.
     
  13. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    5,628
    Likes Received:
    1,338
    Trophy Points:
    263
    If we had objective standards for lower belts, then some people would spend several years at white belt.

    We have a minimum amount of techniques and forms to learn. But for the most part, at the lower belts we're more concerned about the gross movements than every detail. Those get cleaned up over time.
     
  14. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    Messages:
    17,956
    Likes Received:
    3,683
    Trophy Points:
    308
    Location:
    Covington, WA
    Minimum number of techniques is an objective standard. Standards don't have to be draconian to be objective.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  15. skribs

    skribs Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    5,628
    Likes Received:
    1,338
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Then I'm talking about a standard of the execution of those techniques. At what point do you go from improving the techniques, to a minimum standard for each technique?
     
  16. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

    • Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    25,562
    Likes Received:
    7,492
    Trophy Points:
    448
    Location:
    Hendersonville, NC
    Ah. I see what you mean. The 3rd dan was a guess. My point was that there's a point at which the requirement for promotion on a given technique has gone as far as it can. There's simply not a way to keep notching a technical requirement up infinitely. While individuals may be able to progress that particular technique a bit further, they've met the last reasonable requirement. I'm speaking to testing/grading requirements, not the ability to develop.
     
  17. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

    • Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    25,562
    Likes Received:
    7,492
    Trophy Points:
    448
    Location:
    Hendersonville, NC
    I will say that I find some of the things I test for to be difficult (or perhaps impossible) to turn into objective standards. For instance, I require students to get the principles of a technique correct. Simply doing the movements in a way that looks right isn't sufficient. And I'm not sure I could delineate what exactly I'm looking for with that. My students understand the requirement conceptually, because it matches the way I teach. I can say there has to be structure-breaking, but where's the line between breaking structure and not breaking structure?
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  18. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    Messages:
    17,956
    Likes Received:
    3,683
    Trophy Points:
    308
    Location:
    Covington, WA
    Ah, now we're getting somewhere.

    I would say always and never. You should always have minimum technical standards, and honestly, it sounds like you do even for the lower ranks. But standards should be measurable, consistent for everyone, and also reflective of the values of the organization. Is your martial art a fighting art? If so, the standards should include some way to measure fighting skill.

    And as I said before, if you focus too much on where a foot is pointed or where a fist is chambered, you risk losing the forest for the trees. Technique, in my opinion, is like the pirate code... more of a guideline, really. I may not execute an armbar from guard exactly as it was taught to me, but if I can get from point a to point b reliably and consistently, where my toes are pointed isn't the main thing. (this is my opinion)
     
    • Like Like x 1
  19. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

    • Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    25,562
    Likes Received:
    7,492
    Trophy Points:
    448
    Location:
    Hendersonville, NC
    I have a minimum standard at each test. It's just a low bar in the early tests. I'll use the standard I used at my instructor's dojo (because the timelines are closer to what you're familiar with). For yellow belt (almost always less than 18 weeks in - can be as quick as 6 weeks, but that's rare), they had to do the movements that the technique called for (approximate stances, arms doing roughly the right thing to their partner, etc.). For blue (a few months later), they had to actually activate the technique.

    These sound odd in writing, because they're based on the 2-person "forms" that are part of the classical approach. That sequence leads them through memorizing, then understanding the Classical Techniques. (There was a whole segment of the curriculum that was not part of the formal testing, which was approached differently.)
     
    • Like Like x 2
  20. Steve

    Steve Mostly Harmless

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    Messages:
    17,956
    Likes Received:
    3,683
    Trophy Points:
    308
    Location:
    Covington, WA
    Sure. My first reaction to this is that this is where application comes in handy. If you have a clear path to execution, then the proof is in the proverbial pudding. Simply put, you may not be able to see what you're referring to with your eyes... but you should be able to measure it based on results. If you execute an armbar from guard well, the other guy won't be able to keep you from doing it and will tap. It's not about, I noticed you didn't break his posture down. Rather, it's about, I noticed that you compensated for not breaking his posture down by really elevating your hips.123
     
    • Like Like x 3

Share This Page