A phased approach to curriculum

skribs

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When I open my own school, one thing I want to look at is the right type of teaching for the right skill level. I feel my experience in TKD has excelled at the beginner level and waned at the advanced level. A TKD white belt will learn 5 punches, 5 kicks, and 5 blocks. A yellow belt will learn 5 combos involving punches, 5 combos involving kicks, and 5 combos involving blocks. A black belt will learn 5 combos involving punches, 5 combos involving kicks, and 5 combos involving blocks. It never steps up from the foundational level to the conceptual level, and thus progress is linear. In BJJ, I've seen the opposite. It's very much "move of the day" which I find valuable over a year in, but found incredibly frustrating to try and build any level of competence in when I first started. By the time I finally "get" something, we move on.

Thus, I'm looking at a phased approach.
  • Beginner level - do the same things the same way every class, in order to build up lots of muscle memory. Instructor focus is on consistency and repetition. Details and variations are saved for later, as they tend to get in the way of consistent repetition.
  • Intermediate level - the "and then" level. Do the same basic drills. Sometimes zip through them for warmup. Sometimes focus on improving the details. Sometimes add in new techniques on the end as an "and then" idea. Still very structured, but starts to open up.
  • Advanced level - the "steps away from intermediate" level. Start to focus on different concepts each day, week, or month. Goal is not to teach everything every month, or even every belt, but that by black belt a student will have learned the required material and picked up some extra knowledge along the way. There's a list of techniques and concepts that are reserved for black belt (either due to difficult or risk, or as a reward for getting your black belt), but other than that, instructors can teach what they know instead of always doing what I dictate. This is to encourage folks to come in from other schools with other experiences and bring value to my school and my students, instead of to make them feel useless for not knowing my curriculum. (And because memorizing the beginner class and the intermediate additions is quite enough for most folks to keep track of).
  • Black Belt level - the "pool of knowledge" level. Black belts can focus on the aspects of Taekwondo that they find most interesting, whether that's showmanship, sport, or self-defense. Some items open up for students to learn which were previously "locked". (This isn't anything big, it's things like doing double nunchaku instead of single, finishing certain submissions that we didn't in advanced level, scenario sparring for self-defense, 540 kicks, etc.). Some of class is done together, some of class is done more as an open mat.
Thoughts on this? Does this seem to make sense? Is this common in your experience and (in your experience) my schools are outliers?
 
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I'm starting to think about adjusting this. Not really changing the overall concept, but rather adding another phase in the middle for a rote memorized curriculum.

I don't want a rote curriculum from the start (for a number of reasons). I also don't want a rote curriculum that will continue to grow into a bloated, convoluted mess in the middle or upper black belt ranks.

Here's the new plan:
  • Phase 1: Foundation. Beginner level is very consistent to build up the basics. Intermediate level expands a little bit to include what students will need to progress to the advanced level.
  • Phase 2: Framework. Advanced level focuses on repetition through rote memorization. The goal isn't to teach everything I know or make a compendium of techniques, but rather to give a set of things that students will focus on to rise through the upper colored belts and into black belt.
  • Phase 3: Expertise. The 1st degree black belt level would take what I had listed at "Advanced" above. The 2nd degree black belt level would take what I had listed for black belts above.
To put it into another way of looking at it, let's take a couple of techniques as an example:
  1. Beginner level - learn roundhouse kick, and do a bunch of roundhouse kicks. Be ready to do a roundhouse kick when told to in testing.
  2. Intermediate level - learn back kick, do a bunch of back kicks, and do a bunch of roundhouse-back kick combinations. Be ready to do a roundhouse kick, back kick, or roundhouse - back kick combo in testing.
  3. Advanced level - memorize that Kick #5 is roundhouse - back kick - chop - punch. Be ready to do this combo when told "Kicking #5" in testing.
  4. 1st Degree - Learn different ways of doing a back kick (i.e. "true back kick" vs. "turning side kick"), how to move while doing a back kick, and different ways of setting up the back kick or how to combine it into a fight plan with other spinning kicks. Still remember Kicking #5 for formal test.
  5. 2nd Degree - Start to take ownership of what you've learned at 1st degree (and are continuing to learn) through your own experimentation and creations.
I'm not 100% sure if I prefer this approach to the one mentioned above. I know there were a lot of things I disliked about having a curriculum focused on rote memorization, but part of that was the way in which it was handled and the fact that you never transitioned out of it. I think a well-edited green-to-red belt rote curriculum would be a healthy compromise from what I'm used to and my other plan.
 

MetalBoar

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Overall I think what you're thinking about has a lot of value. I feel that a lot of martial arts classes I've done are more like your BJJ experience and I've often thought that it takes a lot longer to get the fundamentals than it should. The arts I've done where we got a really strong foundation in the principles and basic techniques and started applying them as quickly as possible seemed to allow me to progress the fastest.

Things don't make nearly as much sense until you've experienced the context (in this case fighting/sparring) in which they're actually used. Once you have that context (of good free form drills or sparring) and you have a solid foundation, I think it's a lot easier to absorb more techniques in the "move of the day" format, but you need that basic understanding first to really get it. You need enough basic skills that you're actually doing the martial art, not just flailing around. Before you've got that foundation I think it can be hard to integrate techniques in that fashion because you don't have anything to hang it on. At least that's how it seems to work for me.
 
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Things don't make nearly as much sense until you've experienced the context (in this case fighting/sparring) in which they're actually used. Once you have that context (of good free form drills or sparring) and you have a solid foundation, I think it's a lot easier to absorb more techniques in the "move of the day" format, but you need that basic understanding first to really get it. You need enough basic skills that you're actually doing the martial art, not just flailing around. Before you've got that foundation I think it can be hard to integrate techniques in that fashion because you don't have anything to hang it on. At least that's how it seems to work for me.
This has 100% been my experience.

In the TKD schools I've been a part of, it's been great for beginners, but upper belts get frustrated that there's too much to memorize and they're not really learning application.

But the other end of the spectrum is the BJJ and Muay Thai, where I wish we spent more time on a set of fundamentals. I remember one time a purple belt was telling me, "You're telegraphing". Yes, I was. Because I only knew one move for that position and I couldn't even hit it properly in drills yet. But now that I've got enough of a foundation, I like that I am learning new stuff all the time, so I can focus on the new thing for a bit until I get it enough for it to be a part of my arsenal.

And that's why I've tried to do the cliche "best of both worlds", where I get people started off strong with a foundation, and then switch to something more dynamic later on.
 

HighKick

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When I open my own school, one thing I want to look at is the right type of teaching for the right skill level. I feel my experience in TKD has excelled at the beginner level and waned at the advanced level. A TKD white belt will learn 5 punches, 5 kicks, and 5 blocks. A yellow belt will learn 5 combos involving punches, 5 combos involving kicks, and 5 combos involving blocks. A black belt will learn 5 combos involving punches, 5 combos involving kicks, and 5 combos involving blocks. It never steps up from the foundational level to the conceptual level, and thus progress is linear. In BJJ, I've seen the opposite. It's very much "move of the day" which I find valuable over a year in, but found incredibly frustrating to try and build any level of competence in when I first started. By the time I finally "get" something, we move on.

Thus, I'm looking at a phased approach.
  • Beginner level - do the same things the same way every class, in order to build up lots of muscle memory. Instructor focus is on consistency and repetition. Details and variations are saved for later, as they tend to get in the way of consistent repetition.
  • Intermediate level - the "and then" level. Do the same basic drills. Sometimes zip through them for warmup. Sometimes focus on improving the details. Sometimes add in new techniques on the end as an "and then" idea. Still very structured, but starts to open up.
  • Advanced level - the "steps away from intermediate" level. Start to focus on different concepts each day, week, or month. Goal is not to teach everything every month, or even every belt, but that by black belt a student will have learned the required material and picked up some extra knowledge along the way. There's a list of techniques and concepts that are reserved for black belt (either due to difficult or risk, or as a reward for getting your black belt), but other than that, instructors can teach what they know instead of always doing what I dictate. This is to encourage folks to come in from other schools with other experiences and bring value to my school and my students, instead of to make them feel useless for not knowing my curriculum. (And because memorizing the beginner class and the intermediate additions is quite enough for most folks to keep track of).
  • Black Belt level - the "pool of knowledge" level. Black belts can focus on the aspects of Taekwondo that they find most interesting, whether that's showmanship, sport, or self-defense. Some items open up for students to learn which were previously "locked". (This isn't anything big, it's things like doing double nunchaku instead of single, finishing certain submissions that we didn't in advanced level, scenario sparring for self-defense, 540 kicks, etc.). Some of class is done together, some of class is done more as an open mat.
Thoughts on this? Does this seem to make sense? Is this common in your experience and (in your experience) my schools are outliers?
Have you ever heard the phrase "paralysis by analysis"? You seem to be living it.
In the way we pressure test techniques to see what works, the same can be said in the business world. You have to Start the business to prove out what works.
 
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Have you ever heard the phrase "paralysis by analysis"? You seem to be living it.
In the way we pressure test techniques to see what works, the same can be said in the business world. You have to Start the business to prove out what works.
I'm not quite yet ready to start my business. So I might as well do as much analysis now, beforehand.

Even then, I should be willing to improve once I have my business plan or even once I am up and running.
 

HighKick

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I'm not quite yet ready to start my business. So I might as well do as much analysis now, beforehand.

Even then, I should be willing to improve once I have my business plan or even once I am up and running.
Sooo much is figured out on the fly by trial and error. As the poem goes "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry".
Never think you can have it all figured out up front.
 
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Sooo much is figured out on the fly by trial and error. As the poem goes "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry".
Never think you can have it all figured out up front.
So I should figure nothing out up front?

A lot of my plans are based on experiences and discussions. Which is trial and error by proxy.
 

HighKick

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So I should figure nothing out up front?

A lot of my plans are based on experiences and discussions. Which is trial and error by proxy.
Not saying that at all. But you can also get paralysis by analysis. Some things you will never know until you start, you some things you think you have figured out will be completely and totally wrong.
Ask all the questions you can but there is no replacement for live observation and hands-on (your own) experience.
 
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Ask all the questions you can but there is no replacement for live observation and hands-on (your own) experience.
All of the above is based on live observation and my own experiences; either what has or hasn't worked in my experience.
 

HighKick

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All of the above is based on live observation and my own experiences; either what has or hasn't worked in my experience.
I get that, but it is largely on a cellular level. On a technique level, not a global operational level.
You talk a lot about 'when I open my own school'. A great thing that we all hope to see in the near future.
But this is the lack of experience or trial by fire I am talking about. On its own it is neither good nor bad but needs to be acknowledged. And you need to be certain that your experiences are not biasing your perception of things, tainting your opinions. It is evident you have had at least two bad school experiences. Don't let a small sample size skew your judgement.
 
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I get that, but it is largely on a cellular level. On a technique level, not a global operational level.
You talk a lot about 'when I open my own school'. A great thing that we all hope to see in the near future.
But this is the lack of experience or trial by fire I am talking about. On its own it is neither good nor bad but needs to be acknowledged. And you need to be certain that your experiences are not biasing your perception of things, tainting your opinions. It is evident you have had at least two bad school experiences. Don't let a small sample size skew your judgement.
The school I spent 9 years at, there was as much positive as negative. In fact, the early portion of my curriculum is heavily based on what worked at this school.

I also have plenty of positive experiences at my BJJ and MT gym. Although there are things I prefer the TKD/HKD way, or would prefer to try something in-between.

This isn't just "I had 2 bad experiences so I'm doing the opposite."
 
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