Black Belt Boot Camp

skribs

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I saw this article posted on a Facebook group I'm in.
Black Belt in 12 Weeks

The basic gist of the article is a TKD Master in China has a program where you train 6 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 12 weeks, and you can get your black belt. Putting aside the "guaranteed black belt" nature of this program, the question is: can someone really be a black belt in 12 weeks? And, to be clear, we're comparing this to other TKD schools, where a black belt is a 2-3 year degree, and not more traditional TKD schools or other martial arts, where it's more of an 8-12 year endeavor.

What are your thoughts on such a boot camp?

I'm of a couple of minds on this, and I'll go back and forth throughout this post. I'm trying to look past "3 months, lol should take 3 years", and actually look at the effectiveness of training 42 hours per week.

Argument For
In a typical TKD school, students will spend 2-3 days doing anywhere up to 1 hour of class time per week. A black belt often takes a minimum of 2-3 years at these schools, although an average student can complete their black belt in 3-5 years (in my experience). Assuming relatively strong attendance of 50 weeks/year, this gives us a number of mat hours to get black belt of:
2 years3 years5 years
2 hours per week200300500
3 hours per week300450750

In the Boot Camp program, you attend 504 hours (6*7*12), which is similar to a 2-hour-per-week student at 5 years, and more than a 3-hour-per-week student at 3 years. If you accept that a TKD black belt can be earned in 3-5 years at 2-3 hours per week, then this is a similar amount of mat time.

Argument Against
A TKD black belt may have around 300-500 mat hours, but they also will have practice hours outside of mat time. In order for a student to learn everything in the curriculum, they will most likely need to practice at home. This will be a combination of applying advice from class, running through curriculum requirements (such as forms) for memorization, or just having fun with the techniques.

On that note, the question becomes - can a student physically and mentally absorb the training in just 6 weeks?
  • Physically - 42 hours per week of training is an incredible amount. I did 20 hours per week of teaching and training, and teaching is certainly easier than training. Right now, I'm struggling to keep up with a 2-hour-per-day schedule of BJJ and Muay Thai. It's also going to be difficult to build muscle memory, build secondary supporting muscles, flexibility, etc. during the course of 3 months. Recovery time is a part of training, and it's not really accounted for here.
  • Mentally - Beginners are often "drinking from a firehose" for information. I know at the end of BJJ class, the purple belts will give me advice, and if they give me too much advice, I can't keep up. I'm at my limit for how much meaningful teaching I can receive in BJJ. Just like how your muscles need recovery time, so does your brain. I know that I see a big increase in retention from students who go 3x per week instead of 2x, but I don't see much more increase when it's upped to 4x or 5x. We've started to plateau at that point. If you start to plateau at 3 hours per week, then the difference between 30 and 40 is not that high.
Argument For
A boot camp is not a typical class. A typical class is an elective, an after-school activity, or a hobby you do for fun after work. A boot camp like this is your job for the 3 months you do it. Your day is built around the boot camp, not the other way around. Thus, your mind and body should be relatively fresh each day going into this.

Additionally, the type of person who is able to withstand 6 hours per day of training (assuming the load isn't lightened to make 6 hours possible for the average person), they are likely the type of person who would be held back by time-in-grade requirements.

I know that my personal progress accelerated when I started teaching. I was learning the curriculum faster than it could be taught to me. When I got yellow belt, I knew half of the yellow belt material already. When I got purple belt, I knew three quarters of it. I got to the point where I was so far ahead, whenever I got a new belt, it would take me a week or two to learn the material I had left, and then I would just be waiting for the next test.

I took detailed notes after every class, and I practiced multiple hours a day at home. I also had prior experience, and had started over as a white belt. But the point is, it's possible for someone like me to accelerate faster than what is typical. So I can see it being argued here that you could be accelerated as well. Especially if someone is already trained in martial arts.

Argument Against
With all that said, I don't know that it's fair to create a boot camp for the average person, who might have no prior training, to come in and start from scratch.

On that note, you also miss out on a few other things. If everyone is in the boot camp together, then you can't see leadership skills develop. You can't see how attitudes change over time. You miss out on having people who are senior and junior students to see how folks respond to different situations. There's something about the dedication to the art that time-in-grade covers much better than mat hours.
 

Hot Lunch

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The concept is called "immersion." They have similar programs for foreign languages where you're taught by instructors in the country where the language is spoken and you develop a fluency in a short amount time, rather than taking years of courses. And the results are arguably better through immersion.

For a "Black Belt Boot Camp," it's probably best to look at it the same way. Judge the results.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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I think the main question is what comes after. After someone at your school got a black belt the 'normal' way, what percent continued training vs. just stopping?

After someone finishes this program, what percent continue to train, and at what level of intensity?

And the most important question (IMO): assuming the skills they have at black belt are comparable, how do they compare a year down the line? In other words, does this method allow for greater, or lesser, retention, then 'normal' rankings?

I don't know the answer to these questions, but I would want some idea before making an official judgment. I do have my own hypotheses/thoughts here, but that could very well be implicit biases at work.
 
OP
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skribs

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The concept is called "immersion." They have similar programs for foreign languages where you're taught by instructors in the country where the language is spoken and you develop a fluency in a short amount time, rather than taking years of courses. And the results are arguably better through immersion.

For a "Black Belt Boot Camp," it's probably best to look at it the same way. Judge the results.
I actually think this would probably make more sense for language than for martial arts. I'm having trouble articulating why, but the gist of it is that it's different going to class and then coming home and doing non-martial-art things, than it is speaking Spanish for an hour and then coming home and speaking English for 71 hours until you go back to your next class.
 

Yokozuna514

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Interesting. I cant comment as to the validity of this boot camp as Im not a TKD practitioner nor do I know the credentials of the person giving the course.

In the world of Kyokushin, Mas Oyama, did have an immersion program for uchi dechi or live in student. It was a 1000 day course over 3 years but I understand that one could attend for 1 or 2 years only (maybe even less time). The training and conditioning in the program was said to be extremely high and not everyone could go. A student had to have a recommendation from their Sensei and an essay from themselves explaining why they wanted to enter the program.

Uchi Deschi were some of the most skilled and highly proficient students that were later sent around the world to promote Kyokushin. The 3 year program was meant to provide students with the knowledge and abilities of a Kyokushin Shodan after 1 year, Nidan after 2 years, Sandan after 3 years. The graduates of the Uchi Deschi program were referred to as the Young Lions.

Nicolas Pettas and Judd Reid were two of the graduates of this program. Immersive programs of this nature were not for the faint of heart.

Perhaps someone in the TKD world would be able to qualify this program but immersive programs exist and some of them can produce remarkable proponents who are just as skilled and knowledgeable as others who took a traditional route.
 

drop bear

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Could you try to approximate those hours in your bjj club for 12 weeks and see what happens?
 
OP
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skribs

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Could you try to approximate those hours in your bjj club for 12 weeks and see what happens?
No.

If I didn't have a job, the most I could do of BJJ is 16 hours per week, which is far shy of 42. With the job, the most I can do is 6 (because the other 10 are during work or commute hours). Even then, I've been trying to get to 6 per week, and only managing an average of 3, due to a combination of factors. One of those factors is recovery time.

Now, I'm also mixing TKD back in, so my BJJ is going to be down to 3-4 classes per week, assuming I'm available.
 

SahBumNimRush

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I think an immersion experience could definitely improve your technical ability. As others have posted previously, I think it would be difficult to digest and internalize everything that comes with the black belt rank. As Hot Lunch mentioned above, other skillsets have these immersion experiences with positive results. I think the catch is, you aren't graduating with a degree in a foreign language after participating in language immersion experiences.
 

Hot Lunch

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I actually think this would probably make more sense for language than for martial arts. I'm having trouble articulating why, but the gist of it is that it's different going to class and then coming home and doing non-martial-art things, than it is speaking Spanish for an hour and then coming home and speaking English for 71 hours until you go back to your next class.
Actual military boot camp is a precedent. We send young men and women fresh out of high school to a 8 to 12 week boot camp (depending on the branch), followed by technical training for their specific job (which can be as short as three weeks), where they learn how to operate multi-million dollar equipment on the battlefield. And they're deployable the moment they finish their school. And we depend on them to defend the nation.

I would hope that a "black belt boot camp" would require you to cleared by a physician in order to participate.

The only problem I think most would have with this is that they see it as a "shortcut," particularly one that wasn't available to them when they were coming up.

Much like online degrees, they didn't gain mainstream acceptance until more well-known brick & mortar universities started offering them. If larger TMA organizations such as JKA, Goju-Kai, etc started offering these boot camps, it could also gain mainstream acceptance.
 

Earl Weiss

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Even if I roll back the clock 100 years or so to peak age and physical condition I cannot see my body being able to hold up for training 6 hours day, 7 days a week. I only met one TKD Olympian and even their training regimen as not that grueling.
 

Hot Lunch

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Even if I roll back the clock 100 years or so to peak age and physical condition I cannot see my body being able to hold up for training 6 hours day, 7 days a week. I only met one TKD Olympian and even their training regimen as not that grueling.
You'd be surprised what your body can handle. I did Army basic training in 1997. 14 hours of training, 6 days a week. Sunday was a non training day (where you spent most of the day cleaning up the barracks), but that didn't mean that you or your platoon couldn't be made to do push-ups throughout the day if somebody screwed up. And that's just Army. I'm sure there's a Marine or two here here on this forum.
 

JowGaWolf

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So in terms of Black belt qualifications. That all just depends on how much material is taught. Some schools may be at a higher level than others.

My biggest concern is the wear and tear that a 6 hour a day training session will cause. Eventually the training performance will diminish. Even if you can mentally and physically push the body through 6 hours a day, something will break and training time will suffer because of that break.

I mentally pushed myself through a hard 2 hour training session. I thought my calf muscle was just tired so I kept pushing and it ripped. I confused a tired muscle with muscle tissue failing. Our body gives us that "tired feeling" to let us know that we should back off, stop, or rest. That feeling should help us avoid injuries if we are smart enough to listen to it.

The only way 6 hours of training would make sense is if there were long periods of times where physical activity is greatly reduced. If the body is just going all out for 6 hours, even if it's 2 hours at a time, then the body will eventually fail. In addition to that, there is the question of recovery time.

Body performance will suffer if there isn't enough recovery time.
 

Hot Lunch

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So in terms of Black belt qualifications. That all just depends on how much material is taught. Some schools may be at a higher level than others.

My biggest concern is the wear and tear that a 6 hour a day training session will cause. Eventually the training performance will diminish. Even if you can mentally and physically push the body through 6 hours a day, something will break and training time will suffer because of that break.

I mentally pushed myself through a hard 2 hour training session. I thought my calf muscle was just tired so I kept pushing and it ripped. I confused a tired muscle with muscle tissue failing. Our body gives us that "tired feeling" to let us know that we should back off, stop, or rest. That feeling should help us avoid injuries if we are smart enough to listen to it.

The only way 6 hours of training would make sense is if there were long periods of times where physical activity is greatly reduced. If the body is just going all out for 6 hours, even if it's 2 hours at a time, then the body will eventually fail. In addition to that, there is the question of recovery time.

Body performance will suffer if there isn't enough recovery time.
I don't think it's necessary to be "full on" for 6 hours straight. If you punch 100 times and kick 100 times in a regular one hour class, I don't think you have to punch and kick 600 times each in a six hour session to get the same results as six regular one-hour classes.

There can possibly be moments of reduced physical activity, or even moments of no activity where the students watch the instructors demonstrate and explain certain techniques, but the trick is that you're still "in the moment" for those six hours.

For this particular TKD site, I didn't click around to see how big an organization World Taekwondo Family is or how many gup ranks they have. But if they have it set up so that you move up gup one rank per week, it would be kind of neat if students from any dojang within the organization worldwide can show up during the later weeks and only have to finish that portion. For example, a student who just made 1st gup yesterday would only need to show up for the final week. Or maybe a 5th gup is only able take two weeks off of work and just wants to get 3rd gup, so he shows up for those specific two weeks.
 
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JowGaWolf

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You'd be surprised what your body can handle. I did Army basic training in 1997. 14 hours of training, 6 days a week. Sunday was a non training day (where you spent most of the day cleaning up the barracks), but that didn't mean that you or your platoon couldn't be made to do push-ups throughout the day if somebody screwed up. And that's just Army. I'm sure there's a Marine or two here here on this forum.
I don't think you can compare the two. The body is being worked differently. I've seen many fit people think they have the endurance and strength for a Martial Arts only to be surprised to discover that the muscles they trained weren't being worked like they are in a martial arts.
 

JowGaWolf

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There can possibly be moments of reduced physical activity, or even moments of no activity where the students watch the instructors demonstrate and explain certain techniques, but the trick is that you're still "in the moment" for those six hours.
That makes sense. 6 hours learning is not the same as 6 hours training what you know. I can work out for 2 hours and go hard at training what I already know. But 2 hours of teaching is not the same as much of that time would be students learning and being corrected when incorrect body mechanics were being used. With that in consideration, the 6 hours don't seem bad.
 

Yokozuna514

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I don't think you can compare the two. The body is being worked differently. I've seen many fit people think they have the endurance and strength for a Martial Arts only to be surprised to discover that the muscles they trained weren't being worked like they are in a martial arts.
To be fair the opposite is also true. MA are not the best at most sports. How you train affects how you perform.
 

Steve

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I'm skeptical, but it really depends on the goals of the training. What does "black belt" mean in practical terms?

I think it's helpful to look at what the US Army actually teaches recruits in a full time boot camp:


That's a fairly aggressive curriculum. But to me, it focuses on a few key concepts like communicating the US Army values and cultures, a few key skills like weapons training and basic field survival, and a lot of fitness. I would expect that a lot of the more complex skills would be reinforced at the next school, and then when they get to their first assignment. But the big building blocks are in place. I wouldn't expect more than that from a black belt boot camp, even if they could do something that approximates the efficiency and experience that the US Army has in this area.
 

JowGaWolf

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With all that said, I don't know that it's fair to create a boot camp for the average person, who might have no prior training, to come in and start from scratch.
For me personally. I wouldn't want to teach a "Martial Arts Boot Camp" too beginners. That would be boring for me. My mind would be set on wanting to put in some really demanding training only to be hit with the reality of having to train people how to make a proper fist or how to do basic footwork.

Because I like the train. The more advance students are less like students and more like training partners because, now I can get some training in with them, while helping them to improve and learn new things. It's that type of thing I would expect to see in a Bootcamp. Bootcamp = Advanced participants.
 
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