What should a TKD Black Belt know? What should a TKD Black Belt learn?

Discussion in 'Tae-Kwon-Do' started by skribs, Apr 23, 2019.

  1. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    I know every school is different, and some schools have a higher standard of requirements for black belt than others. I also understand that this can be a highly subjective issue, depending on how you see a black belt (whether their basics are perfect or they just have a firm foundation), and on your own personal bias of the black belts at your school or how you think you were when you got your black belt.

    With that said, let's go into this thread understanding that it's an opinion thread, and arguing about opinions is like arguing over whether cheese tastes green or blue. (It's blue, by the way). If one person has a higher standard than you or your school, it doesn't mean they're a snob, and if someone else has a lower standard it doesn't mean they have a McDojang. So let's try to keep this thread about "my school is X" and not "your school is Y and that's why my school is better".

    So onto the question: what is it you think a black belt should know in Taekwondo? I'm specifically looking at a KKW/WT school, although I understand that won't cover all TKD schools. Your post can be as granular as you want it to be, but please avoid generalizing to the point of not saying anything (i.e. "a black belt should know the techniques and learn how to apply them"), unless that generalization is your TL;DR and you go more in-depth than that.

    Some more specific questions that I have:
    • What WT sparring concepts should a black belt know already, vs. learn as a black belt. For example, are there styles of footwork, concepts such as distance, clinch, or headshots, which you would expect to teach more at black belt, or which a black belt should already know? Do you think it doesn't matter which ones they know or which ones they learn, as long as some are covered already and some are going to be covered soon? In other words, should a black belt already have a full idea of what black belt sparring will be like, and simply improve it, or since there's new stuff (like headshots) should they learn that when they get there.

    • Are there kicks that aren't necessary to know by black belt that you would expect a black belt to learn? Or any kick not learned by black belt, is it an extra kick that's not necessary? I'm thinking of kicks that are more difficult and less common, with either niche or no practical application, such as 540 kicks, twist kicks, and high flying jump kicks.

    • Things that are less associated with Taekwondo, like punches, grabs, and sweeps. Should these be learned at colored belts, or at black belt? Should they be an elective piece that you do every once in a while, or part of the core curriculum? Are they even necessary in Taekwondo, or should you expect fighters to cross-train into another art (i.e. boxing or Judo) to learn them?

    • How much of an idea on how to teach should a fresh Black Belt have? Should they know their role as an assistant, or should that be something they start learning at Black Belt? Should they be capable of mentoring a single student on improving techniques, running a small group through forms or drills, leading a whole class through stretches and warm-ups, and/or be able to lead an entire class by themselves?

    • How much of an idea on practical application of self defense should a Taekwondoist have as a fresh black belt, vs. what they learn at black belt? In this case, do they have all the pieces and can now put them together? Have they been putting them together the whole time? Or are there still new pieces to add to the puzzle, such as new scenarios, techniques, and combinations that weren't covered before?

    • How precise should a fresh black belt's forms be? Should they be an exact replica of the form, in every individual movement, or is it okay to have a little bit of rawness in the technique? (For example, punches that show the full reach of the punch instead of the properly squared front stance, kicks that may not be quite as pretty but you can see the power in them, footwork that is a little bit more aggressive but not quite as graceful).

    These are just some of the things I was thinking of. I'm looking several years down the road, when I might be in charge of my own school, and I'll probably do this several times again before I get there. (This way, I've thought about it, grown, thought about it again, grown some more, and so on, before I am in charge). On the one hand, I would want black belts to know everything, but on the other I know its impossible to know everything about martial arts unless it takes 50 years to get your black belt. (So good luck those starting in their 30s and 40s). And even then there's going to be gaps.

    What do you think? What are the things a black belt should know, and what are the things you would expect them to learn?
     
  2. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    You should know...Why TKD will get you killed.


    Sorry couldn't resist....I will put myself in timeout.:D
     
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  3. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    Might be funny if I got it.
     
  4. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    Sorry....we had a former poster who made some really bad videos entitled "why (insert martial art style) will get you killed"
     
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  5. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    I miss Isiah90 or whatever his number was.

    Remember the guy dodging nerf gun bullets? That’s who CB’s talking about.
     
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  6. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Yes, but that is true of every style.
     
  7. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    I didn't take any videos of that, how did you know I did that?

    And we weren't dodging. We were parrying. With lightsabers.
     
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  8. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    Congratulations, @CB Jones , this is the fastest I've ever seen a thread go off-topic.
     
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  9. CB Jones

    CB Jones Senior Master

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    I apologize.
     
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  10. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Which is why we all need to study. To forget all our styles, so we don't get hurt or killed.
     
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  11. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    For what? We should have a trophy for that on MT, man!
     
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  12. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Back to the topic, I'll pitch in as an outsider, because I love you guys hearing me talk. :D

    Given the basic structure of TKD, I'd say a BB should be an expert at the most basic kicks and a commensurate proportion of hand strikes. I'd vary the number of those based on whether BB is meant to be "strong foundation" or "highly advanced student". In either case, they should have some of the most basic stuff at a high level. That means the most useful, reliable stuff for sparring and/or self-defense (depending upon the focus of training).

    They should have good control, and be able to control angle and distance against someone of similar level.

    They should know the basic history of the art (unnecessary, but a personal preference for me, for any art), including the common mythology (so they can speak to it).

    They should be competent at the full list of forms being used (since this is common practice in TKD), being able to do any of them up to their rank upon request, without advanced warning.

    That covers what I know enough to say I'd require if I knew enough to require it.
     
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  13. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    The reason I bring up the sparring tactics, is because the rules change at higher belts. In the tournaments I've been to, colored belts up through blue belt (at any age) aren't allowed to kick to the head. Red and brown belts over the age of (it varies between 12-16) can do headshots, and black belts (sometimes all ages, sometimes 10-12+) can do headshots.

    So the question is, do you have someone preparing for headshots at green and blue belt, so they'll be ready at red or black? Or do you have them start when it's appropriate in the rules, and just hope they don't do a tournament right after getting that belt and then being unprepared?
     
  14. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I'd have them starting early (blue/green), so they're ready when it's needed. I'd consider that like testing material, and I'm not fond of testing material that's presented just in time to get ready for the test.
     
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  15. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    Can you elaborate on the bolded/underlined part?
     
  16. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Sure. I'll give an example of two things from my training. For green (3rd rank up), we tested 9 kick variations. Those were commonly taught about 4-8 weeks before you were ready to test. So, you were scrambling to pass the test, rather than focusing on learning to make the kick useful. After shodan (1st black), there was specific weapons material for nidan. This was typically presented when a shodan was seen as a nidan candidate (close to 3 years of teaching). None of that material was ever even seen before then, so you were left scrambling to figure out how to pass the test for nidan, working with folks who rarely got to use that material (since nobody every learned it before shodan).

    The result: in both cases, most people just didn't use that stuff much after they passed the test.

    I prefer material to be presented well before it's tested, so folks should at least see - if not experience - every technique and form at least one belt before it is tested. The exception would be material presented at the beginning of a very long belt period. It typically takes a year to get to each next belt with me, so someone getting the green-test material at the beginning of blue (colors are probably backwards of what you're used to) has a lot of time to experience it before testing. I generally like to have at least 3-4 months of no new testable material prior to a test.
     
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  17. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    That's an interesting take.
     
  18. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    One thing we do at my school now, is we have different levels of expectations based on the belt level. A white belt, we expect to know a punch means you shove your fist out, whereas a green belt should be learning to pivot the foot and hip, and a red belt should have a complete understanding of the punch. We introduce spinning hook kick at green belt, and as long as they do a pirouette we're happy (I'm happy I just spelled it right). At blue belt it should resemble a kick, and at red belt it should be a raw technique to the face, and at black belt it should be a crisp motion.

    The first belts you learn something it's usually more of a vocabulary test than anything else.
     
  19. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    You did say you were thinking about this stuff in preparation for running your own school. One thing you will need to decide is: will your school be a rank based school or a skill based school? The answer to that, will help you know what a black belt in your school should know.

    Rank Based School:
    This is a school where the focus is on attaining rank. There is a clear outline of what things are required for each rank. You memorize the things, spend your time in grade and go test. If you properly did the things, you get the rank. This leads to what Gerry was talking about: presenting material just in time to test. The reason is that the idea here is to minimize the time between tests, so that you can get the next one. Schools like this many times have large numbers of ranks, lots of stripes between ranks and even some have patches to earn as well. And of course, all these come with ever increasing testing fees.

    Skill Based School:
    This is a school where rank is secondary. Skill, ability, growth and understanding are key. You will still have a clear outline of what things are required for each rank. But, memorizing where flap your arms and legs and what direction to face, are not enough to pass the test. You need to develop those things, understand those things and be able to apply those things outside the box. Rank advancement takes longer here. Memorizing the things is only the first step... once you memorize the things, now the study begins. Rank is awarded based on what you understand about the things you are studying. As your rank increases, your understanding of what your were doing as a white belt should grow. These schools usually have few ranks... as it is the understanding and growth that are valued, not the memorization of the pattern.

    If you are going to run a Rank Based School. Just publish the rank requirements for each rank, stripe and patch. Teach them the things, test to make sure they can do the things and then advance them. In this school, a black belt should have learned all the things on the list. (you will have to also answer the question about whether ranks are cumulative, they do all the things from all the ranks before or whether they just do their thing... this means that after black belt, to become an instructor you would have to relearn all the things again)

    If you are going to run a Skill Based School, you will need to define what level of understanding each rank should have of what they are doing. This is more subjective. What are the concepts the each rank introduces? How do you know that the student has the satisfactory understanding of those concepts? In these schools, the students generally practice all the things, even the white belt things. But, you can look at the higher level students and see that they have a greater understanding of the things, not just that they are sharper, faster and snappier. No one in these schools are worried about minimum time in grade requirements... because it takes a while to progress in your understanding of what you are doing. A black belt here would have a very good understanding of most of the principles and ideas taught and should be able to adapt them to new and different situations.
     
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  20. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    @wab25 My thought is to try and combine the two. Taekwondo is very rank-based in its progression. In fact, the mandated requirements for black belt are 8 specific forms, everything else is up to the individual school's owner (to my knowledge, anyway).

    Ideally, I want to do something in between, where some stuff is rank-specific, and other stuff is skill-based, or at least has a transition from rank-based to skill based. For example:
    • Blue belt learns a new technique. This technique follows the rank-based model, where as long as the blue belt flaps their arms the right way, they get the red belt.
    • Red belt gains a better understanding of the technique, and must be able to properly apply the technique in a controlled setting. (i.e. against passive resistance)
    • Black belt gains even more understanding, and must be able to apply the technique in a different setting (i.e. a different setup, against active resistance, or in sparring)
    Trying to figure out how to balance those out is a good time waster for me whenever I do have spare time. At this point, it's purely academic/theoretical for me, because nobody is actually learning my "curriculum".
     
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