Black Belt Boot Camp

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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.
So where would you set it? Would you require the student to complete the bottom half of the gup ranks, and then the boot camp would take them the rest of the way? Or the bottom quarter, and the boot camp would go through the top three-quarters?
 

Steve

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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.

Like most things, the devil is in the details. What are the goals for the program? Is the program well designed to meet those goals? Are the instructors competent?

This is really analogous to a sports camp for kids. A well run, well designed program has a set curriculum and plan for every day that focuses on building and practicing skills. Turns out a lot of sports camps share their curriculum freely online. They all seem to be highly structured and many/most end pretty much every day with application.

If the program is for beginners, you could see a tremendous amount of progress in 12 weeks. If the program is for more advanced participants, I'd probably expect to see some specialization for any progress to be seen.

Personally, I like the idea of a culminating event of some kind. For example, @drop bear 's school does a fighting bootcamp of some kind where at the end of the training, the person has a fight.
 

drop bear

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Like most things, the devil is in the details. What are the goals for the program? Is the program well designed to meet those goals? Are the instructors competent?

This is really analogous to a sports camp for kids. A well run, well designed program has a set curriculum and plan for every day that focuses on building and practicing skills. Turns out a lot of sports camps share their curriculum freely online. They all seem to be highly structured and many/most end pretty much every day with application.

If the program is for beginners, you could see a tremendous amount of progress in 12 weeks. If the program is for more advanced participants, I'd probably expect to see some specialization for any progress to be seen.

Personally, I like the idea of a culminating event of some kind. For example, @drop bear 's school does a fighting bootcamp of some kind where at the end of the training, the person has a fight.
We are doing another one this year. Fight is in September.
 

JowGaWolf

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So where would you set it? Would you require the student to complete the bottom half of the gup ranks, and then the boot camp would take them the rest of the way? Or the bottom quarter, and the boot camp would go through the top three-quarters?
I don't know about TKD but for Kung Fu. Student's really can't go "hard training" with the techniques until their brain gets rewired. I literally mean rewired. With kung fu the brain has to get the body to move in new ways. Depending on the technique that can take half a month to a month with 5 hour a week training. The better coordinated the person is naturally the sooner the person will be able to do the technique. It varies for each person but it's a norm that some "rewiring of the brain" occurs. Like rubbing your head and patting your stomach at the same time, then patting your head and rubbing your stomach. The brain gets confused and the body doesn't move as you need it to.

If TKD has similar issues then that would be the line where I set things. That foundational movement mastery. So the basic mastery Beginner Level. Everyone would start at the Intermediate Level even if they are advanced level. In terms of TKD then I guess that would be the bottom half of the gup ranks.

There's just a lot of things people in general have trouble with simply because they haven't mastered the basics.
 

Flying Crane

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The Zero to Hero idea is utter nonsense. I have seen it in MA, SCUBA, and EMS (and I am sure it happens in other areas) and it never works. But it's a cash cow, so it'll go on.
People do this weird math where they add up the average number of class time hours of training that it takes, over a period of time, to reach some milestone like shodan in a martial art. Maybe they then try to factor in some extra number of hours that a typical student may spend outside of class, practicing on their own. Or they just ignore that issue. Then they try to figure out the absolute least amount of consecutive time that one could maybe squeeze all of those hours in all at once, with little regard for how much physical training the body can withstand without significant rest, or the reality of burnout or other mental fatigue that comes from doing the same thing over and over and without significant rest. Then they package some nonsensical training schedule into that minimum time and try to sell the package.

It is an unhealthy way to train, and for most people unlikely to be successful. Yes, some people might be the exception and could be successful. Everyone wants to believe that they are that exception. They are not.
 

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Some kind of intense boot camp style training might be realistic for people who already have a solid foundation and set of skills, and are working to deepen those skills. In my opinion, the most successful approach would be if the bootcamp training is in the same system in which they already have their training, not in a crossover to something else. But the notion of 6-7 hours of training every day, 7 days a week, for something like 12 weeks, is idiotic. Perhaps 4 hours a day, for 5 days a week, for three weeks could be feasible.

Fresh out of college I earned my instructor rating in scuba diving. I took a job in the Bahamas working for a large, all-inclusive resort, teaching the guests. We were expected to work every day. We did not get a weekend. We were teaching and leading scuba tours for much of the day. That is physical work and it wears you out, and is mentally taxing. On top of that, we were expected to mingle with the guests into the evening. I lasted about two months before I was miserable and told them to get me on a flight the hell out of there. I was exhausted and realized that somebody was probably going to get injured under my watch, possibly myself, and that was unacceptable to me. Not even the prospect of diving everyday in the Bahamas (the diving was excellent), and the fact that room and board was provided (the food was also very good) made it worth staying.

That kind of intensity cannot be maintained for very long.
 

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People do this weird math [...]
I see this more commonly in SCUBA than anything else and it is purely a money maker.

Start with someone who has never been under water, sell them one course at a time, all the while telling them what a natural they are, and after 60 dives and about $10,000, they're "qualified" as a PADI Open Water SCUBA instructor.

In EMS, you see people go straight from EMT to Paramedic. It never goes well. There's no rule against it, but anyone in the field will tell you a new EMT needs AT LEAST two years with an experienced partner before they move on.

If someone showed up at my dojang with a Boot Camp Black Belt, I'd let them wear it, just as I'd let anybody wear their rank from another school. But it would take all of 3 seconds for everyone to wonder why.
 

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I see this more commonly in SCUBA than anything else and it is purely a money maker.

Start with someone who has never been under water, sell them one course at a time, all the while telling them what a natural they are, and after 60 dives and about $10,000, they're "qualified" as a PADI Open Water SCUBA instructor.

In EMS, you see people go straight from EMT to Paramedic. It never goes well. There's no rule against it, but anyone in the field will tell you a new EMT needs AT LEAST two years with an experienced partner before they move on.

If someone showed up at my dojang with a Boot Camp Black Belt, I'd let them wear it, just as I'd let anybody wear their rank from another school. But it would take all of 3 seconds for everyone to wonder why.
Yeah, even with the basic scuba certification I would like to see the bar raised. The problem is, all of the recreation diver certification agencies are doing the same thing: trying to make certification as easy as possible to get in the most clients and the most business. From what Ive seen, their standards are all at about the same level for the basic certification training.

I would be fully supportive of raising the bar for the basic certification, for starters. Add more pool training sessions and open water training dives. Make it a requirement to then take some significant number of fun dives under the supervision of an instructor. Then review the training again. Then sign off on their certification. How about ten separate pool session instead of four or five, and maybe 20 or 25 actual open water dives instead of four.

The advanced and specialty and rescue and dive master courses ought to be similarly beefed up. All of those seem to just introduce the topics, and arent worthy of an actual certification. Raise the bar so the certification isnt given until some significant experience is gained, not just an introduction. Then, a person is actually ready to do the instructor training because they have significant experience in the training they have already received, not just a minimum number of dives logged.

But if any certification agency tried to do that they would lose all the business because people dont want to work that hard.

Sure, a lot of successful divers come out of the programs as they are. But I saw a lot of incompetent divers in my time, people who should never have been certified with their current skills. Maybe a more robust training program would fix that, or weed out the people who simply should not be diving.
 

JowGaWolf

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People do this weird math where they add up the average number of class time hours of training that it takes, over a period of time, to reach some milestone like shodan in a martial art. Maybe they then try to factor in some extra number of hours that a typical student may spend outside of class, practicing on their own. Or they just ignore that issue. Then they try to figure out the absolute least amount of consecutive time that one could maybe squeeze all of those hours in all at once, with little regard for how much physical training the body can withstand without significant rest, or the reality of burnout or other mental fatigue that comes from doing the same thing over and over and without significant rest. Then they package some nonsensical training schedule into that minimum time and try to sell the package.

It is an unhealthy way to train, and for most people unlikely to be successful. Yes, some people might be the exception and could be successful. Everyone wants to believe that they are that exception. They are not.
The math part is always strange to me. How does on factor the time it takes to understand a technique or what the best timing will be for you to land or counter strikes. Even on the most basic level how should I breath when practicing..

Regardless of the subject matter we all grasp understanding at different rates. I've seen comments in here that were said 4 years ago and some of the people who didn't understand then are now understanding what was said 4 years ago. Some things just can't be realistically calculated by numbers. There have been times where I figured out something when I wasn't doing kung fu or training. How do I calculate that?
 

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The Zero to Hero idea is utter nonsense. I have seen it in MA, SCUBA, and EMS (and I am sure it happens in other areas) and it never works. But it's a cash cow, so it'll go on.
Framing it as zero to hero is a little dishonest, in my opinion. I havent seen anyone in the thread suggest anything of the sort. There are all kinds of examples of intensive training being beneficial.
 

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Yeah, even with the basic scuba certification I would like to see the bar raised. The problem is, all of the recreation diver certification agencies are doing the same thing: trying to make certification as easy as possible to get in the most clients and the most business. From what Ive seen, their standards are all at about the same level for the basic certification training.
You will find most experienced divers agree, and most technical divers have no respect at all for the OW certifying agencies.

For example. All agencies agree that a certified diver should be able to plan and execute a dive with just themselves and their buddy. And yet, underwater navigation is taught in Advanced Open Water... Then there's the buoyancy training...

It is possible to get decent beginner training. Organizations like GUE or IANTD require an Open Water diver to actually have good buoyancy and trim and to be able to navigate.

Most people are vacation divers, though. I've met divers who are proud of their 20 years of experience. With less than 100 dives logged...
 

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Framing it as zero to hero is a little dishonest, in my opinion. I havent seen anyone in the thread suggest anything of the sort. There are all kinds of examples of intensive training being beneficial.
Did you read the first post? It's very clear. 12 weeks to 1st Dan. That is the very definition of zero to hero. Intensive training is great. Zero to hero, not so much.
 

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The math part is always strange to me. How does on factor the time it takes to understand a technique or what the best timing will be for you to land or counter strikes. Even on the most basic level how should I breath when practicing..

Regardless of the subject matter we all grasp understanding at different rates. I've seen comments in here that were said 4 years ago and some of the people who didn't understand then are now understanding what was said 4 years ago. Some things just can't be realistically calculated by numbers. There have been times where I figured out something when I wasn't doing kung fu or training. How do I calculate that?
It takes down-time between training sessions for the brain to process the work that has been done. Over and over. You dont learn and grow without the downtime.

Some years ago a fellow here was hyper-focused on the mantra that it takes 10,000 repetitions to master something. So he figured he could get a student to master a technique in something silly like 10 days or whatever, if he made the student do 1000 reps each day. Or fewer days with more reps. Ridiculous. Try throwing 1000 punches without stopping. You get tired. You get sloppy. So you are simply reinforcing sloppy technique. Downtime is important.
 
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Flying Crane

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You will find most experienced divers agree, and most technical divers have no respect at all for the OW certifying agencies.

For example. All agencies agree that a certified diver should be able to plan and execute a dive with just themselves and their buddy. And yet, underwater navigation is taught in Advanced Open Water... Then there's the buoyancy training...

It is possible to get decent beginner training. Organizations like GUE or IANTD require an Open Water diver to actually have good buoyancy and trim and to be able to navigate.

Most people are vacation divers, though. I've met divers who are proud of their 20 years of experience. With less than 100 dives logged...
When I was teaching in the Bahamas, I had a student who was basically doing OK by PADI standards, but was struggling with buoyancy. I kept working with her in the pool, using PADI techniques to show buoyancy control, but she couldnt quite get it. I was reluctant to pass her along, and got grief from my manager because the client had paid a lot of money to vacation in the Bahamas and specifically to get a PADI certification, after all. Was I being too strict? Maybe. But maybe I was tired of watching the certified divers crash through the coral because they had no control. Or suddenly shoot to the surface because they had no control. I was trying to do my part to ensure my students would not be those people. So I spent extra time to see if she could get it right, and didnt want to pass her along until I was confident that she could.

Did I mention, I didnt last long in that job?
 

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After I left the Bahamas I was inactive as an instructor for a number of years. I then Reconnected and renewed my instructor credential, ready to give it another try.

I started working with a dive shop, first assisting with a class or two. PADI was doing a weird thing at the time, I dont know if they are still allowing it. You could combine multiple specialty courses at the same time. So if you strap on a nitrox tank, bring your camera and your compass, you could count that single dive for three different specialties. That whole concept was new to me, it wasnt being done when I first got my instructor cert. I could see immediately that it was problematic at the least. These were newly certified divers working on multiple specialty certs and they had too much happening all at once, they couldnt keep track of what they were doing.

We had settled on the bottom in a group and then the instructor started to lead the group away. One diver was still sitting there, so I stayed with him to figure out what the problem was. He was looking bewildered and I shrugged my shoulders at him, asking what the problem was. He made a motion like taking a picture, then shrugged his shoulders. He had lost his camera. But it was on a lanyard attached to his BCD, it had strung under his arm and his camera was actually floating right behind his head. I straightened him out and off we went.

But it was clear to me that he was distracted by too many things going on. That was my first experience with such a training dive, and I knew I would never run a class like that. But dive shop operators want to do that kind of thing because it maximizes income for each dive you do.

Shortly after that the dive shop owner wanted to give me a class to run. I didnt feel ready, just wanted to assist other instructors for a while until I felt more comfortable and confident. Shortly after the class began I backed out, told the dive shop owner that I wasnt comfortable doing this and I was questioning whether I should be a scuba instructor at all. I never taught scuba again, that was about 20 years ago. I am simply not comfortable with the way courses are being run.
 

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You get tired. You get sloppy. So you are simply reinforcing sloppy technique. Downtime is important.
For me the pattern is.
Reality 1: Tired -> Sloppy -> Bad techniuqe -> injury
Reality 2: Tired -> Sloppy -> Good technique -> Physical failure (torn muscle, etc.) -> injury

These are the only 2 outcomes I've ever experienced in my life. Young people usually fall under Reality 1: Older people 40+ usually fall under Reality 2:
 

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The Zero to Hero idea is utter nonsense. I have seen it in MA, SCUBA, and EMS (and I am sure it happens in other areas) and it never works. But it's a cash cow, so it'll go on.

for something like martial arts it works surprisingly well.

If the program is a well thought out progressive approach. It basically means you can start everyone with the right foundations and build on those in a cohesive way.

So the training makes sense from start to finish.

You can also achieve the right physical conditioning. So people are participating properly in the classes rather than sitting out or wasting time because they are gassed.
 

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Did you read the first post? It's very clear. 12 weeks to 1st Dan. That is the very definition of zero to hero. Intensive training is great. Zero to hero, not so much.

Yeah but it's also A Tkd blackbelt.
 

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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 would not be surprised. In my younger days I attended some TK-D Camps. Usually 4 classes a day . After 5 days everyone was pretty much wasted and needed recovery time of several days. Once the muscles are fatigued quality of performance declines notably as does the possibility of injury.
 

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