Conflicting instruction from senior black belts

jthomas1600

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At our school we have several black belts who are sort of unofficial assistant instructors. There is one in particular who continual gives me pointers that are contrary to the way Master Lee has taught--kicking mechanics, forms, chambering, etc. Up until this point I have chosen to follow his instruction (some of his pointers I think are very good) at the time, and just revert back to original instruction at all other times.

Is this common in other schools? How do you handle it?
 

chrispillertkd

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That can be difficult, especially if you're very junior to the black belt who is trying to help you (and I'm sure he is trying to help). The best thing to do, I think, is to listen to the instruction and practice it while the black belt is there and if you are sure he is wrong revert back to what your actual instructor taught you at otheris.

Additionally, when the opportunity presents itself you might consider sereptitiously asking your Master Instructor about how to correctly perform the technique(s) in question. Just mention that you have a question or are unsure of something or are a bit confused because you've seen the technique demonstrated in different ways and need some clarification. (This can be done during class if your instructor allows questions.) This way no one is being singled out as instructing incorrectly and if the black belt is present he will a chance to fix his mistake, too.

If you have a close relationship with your instructor and are perhaps a senior student you might be able to approach him in a more forthcoming manner but this should be done in private and still in a manner that in which the black belt giving out advice isn't belittled. Just remember to be courteous, regardless of circumstances.

Pax,

Chris
 

searcher

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One thing to remember, it is his personal interpretation of the same things you are learning form your head instructor. My Wife is and has been my assistant instructor for almost 15 years. She does things differently than I do and her students perform great. My students also do great with different instruction. It is really about someone from the outside looking in and seeing something that might benefit you. You can take the advice or you cannot. It seems simple, because it truly is. It is taking things and making them truly your own.

No two people are the same and will almost always do things differently. Do what you want, but always be open to outside knowledge. JMHO.
 

granfire

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If in doubt and it not blatantly wrong, the head instructor leads the way. However, you can always go by way of 'I am confused, Soandso showed it to me like this'
 

dancingalone

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It depends on how tightly uniform your head instructor prefers to keep technique in his school. If he prefers for everyone to do things the same way, then naturally you need to follow what he says, instead of the other black belt. A politic way of handling the other black belt might be to say 'I like your way, but Mr. So-and-So told me to do it this way, and I'm trying to learn it that way for belt tests.'

On the other hand, if the head instructor leaves things more up to individual preference, then follow whichever method you find works best for you.

In any case, don't blow off the other black belt just because he is 'wrong'. He might have very good reasons for his preferred method of execution and learning variations from different people is one of the advantages of training with multiple instructor-level people.
 

Lord-Humongous

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If in doubt and it not blatantly wrong, the head instructor leads the way. However, you can always go by way of 'I am confused, Soandso showed it to me like this'

I agree with Granfire. I have had belts senior to me show me stuff that is incorrect. You will occassionally run into guys who have trained for a year of two and think they know it all.
 

risingfire

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In our dojang unless a bb is an official instructor you respectfully acknowledge their comments but are not required to implement them. You can ask an assistant instructor or the sabumnim after class or if the bb is being...."persistent," we tell them thank you but the sabumnim has final word and that we could discuss with the sabumnim after class. To be short - no instructor status - no go;)
 

bushidomartialarts

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This happens all the time in every school with more than one instructor. Sometimes it's a matter of one instructor being wrong. Other times, it's more complex:

Two martial artists with different body types will use different mechanics to get the same result.

Two martial artists in the same style might value different aspects of the style.

Two martial artists with the same training might have encoded different aspects of the training.

There are many (maybe an infinite supply) of other reasons this kind of thing might happen. It's normal. Frustrating, but normal.
 

KarateMomUSA

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I think this is a fairly common problem. We come into it all the time with the ITF syllabus. However it usually gets sorted out fairly easy, as we have such good documentation as to how something is to be done when it comes to things that are standardized. When it doesn't have to be done a certain way, then different perspectives can really help students find a way that works best for them.
 
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jthomas1600

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Thanks for all your responses. Glad to hear this is not an unusual situation.

Dancingalone: I would say our head instructor is fairly accepting of small variations in form from each individual (at least at the belt level I'm at) so yeah, what I'm doing now is pretty much giving all of his suggestions a try for evaluations sake. Several of them I've found helpful for generating power. But I know that generating max power is not always the most important aspect (right?), sometimes speed, balance, fluidity, etc is more important?

Anyway, if nothing else this guy offers me a good opportunity to exercise my humility. It is sometimes hard for me when I think I've just about perfected something to have somebody come and tell me to try it a different way.
 

StudentCarl

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...what I'm doing now is pretty much giving all of his suggestions a try for evaluations sake. Several of them I've found helpful for generating power. But I know that generating max power is not always the most important aspect (right?), sometimes speed, balance, fluidity, etc is more important?

1. I don't have a problem with trying "suggestions" from someone who has proven to give useful ones.
2. I would say that correct physiological technique leads to what you seek (power, speed, balance, fluidity, etc.) Depending on the technique, there may be more than one physiologically good way to execute it. It's wise to ask the senior instructor in those cases: you might get "both ways work", the dogmatic "that's how we do it", or the instructive "this is why we do it this way". IMO it's never wrong to ask why, as you show you are trying to understand and not just be a robot.

Anyway, if nothing else this guy offers me a good opportunity to exercise my humility. It is sometimes hard for me when I think I've just about perfected something to have somebody come and tell me to try it a different way.

I don't think there are any techniques that you perform forever the way you first learned them. Over the thousands of repetitions and various techniques your understanding of your body and TKD increases. So it's a two-sided coin: I don't think we've ever really got a technique "perfected", but if something works well for you I wouldn't change it without knowing why.

Carl
 

dancingalone

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Dancingalone: I would say our head instructor is fairly accepting of small variations in form from each individual (at least at the belt level I'm at) so yeah, what I'm doing now is pretty much giving all of his suggestions a try for evaluations sake. Several of them I've found helpful for generating power. But I know that generating max power is not always the most important aspect (right?), sometimes speed, balance, fluidity, etc is more important?

It's a matter of training methodology. I personally believe you should develop power first and foremost. Once you understand how to combine speed, timing, and proper use of mass and muscle contraction for fight-ending power, I think the other desirable characteristics like grace and efficiency can be developed next.

I've trained more than a handful of people this way and I think I've had better success emphasizing power first than the any other aspect.
 

StudentCarl

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It's a matter of training methodology. I personally believe you should develop power first and foremost. Once you understand how to combine speed, timing, and proper use of mass and muscle contraction for fight-ending power, I think the other desirable characteristics like grace and efficiency can be developed next.

I've trained more than a handful of people this way and I think I've had better success emphasizing power first than the any other aspect.

Looking for clarification: power first and then improved control so you keep the power and are balanced to attack or defend further? I ask because early focus on power over control leads to imbalance. You're willing to take the imbalance to get the power...and then improve the balance and control?

Thanks,
Carl
 

bluewaveschool

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To me, power comes from balance and proper form/technique. The muscles gain strength from the repetitions, same with speed.
 

dancingalone

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Imbalance is a constant companion. We're never perfectly equalized in anything, are we? I don't see this as a real problem - it's just a question of which issue we decide to fix first.

From my personal experience, I think if you don't work on power first, you'll find it difficult to attain to full measure compared to someone who did train for it. It's something about building the mentality during the beginner stages along with the muscle memory to 'hit out' on your strikes. Others might have other opinions which is fine.
 

dancingalone

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To me, power comes from balance and proper form/technique. The muscles gain strength from the repetitions, same with speed.

That's the conventional thought. I taught that way for a long time before concluding it's better to teach to swing for the fences first before developing other attributes. Some batting coaches in baseball think the same way.
 

StudentCarl

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Imbalance is a constant companion. We're never perfectly equalized in anything, are we? I don't see this as a real problem - it's just a question of which issue we decide to fix first.

From my personal experience, I think if you don't work on power first, you'll find it difficult to attain to full measure compared to someone who did train for it. It's something about building the mentality during the beginner stages along with the muscle memory to 'hit out' on your strikes. Others might have other opinions which is fine.

This makes good sense to me.
The problem I often see is students who only practice at half speed/power. They get less tired and it's easier to balance, but they're in trouble when they need to go all out because they haven't learned to balance with that energy. I agree that powerful technique is the goal, though sometimes it helps to go slow with a new technique at first to get the motion in place. Because speed is the biggest component of power, you can't get very far if you don't practice it all out.
 

ralphmcpherson

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I get this same problem occasionally where I train. We have about 20 black belts in my class who are 3rd dan or higher and they are all good people who are happy to give advice. The problem is that the advice can be very different from one bb to another. I suppose it is bound to occur as different people have different interpretations and may have originally trained under other instructors or even done different martial arts. I just take it all in and eventually I can work out the right way, but if in doubt I just ask the head instructor.
 

terryl965

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I do not think anybody really trys to over run anybody in a school, especially the head instructor. I do believe every BB has develope what works for them and they try to pass that along and sometimes lower belts feel that they are saying something totally different. I tell everyone this is the proper way and with that being said you will change it a lettle to make it fit your size, speed and agility.
 

ralphmcpherson

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I do not think anybody really trys to over run anybody in a school, especially the head instructor. I do believe every BB has develope what works for them and they try to pass that along and sometimes lower belts feel that they are saying something totally different. I tell everyone this is the proper way and with that being said you will change it a lettle to make it fit your size, speed and agility.
You sound very similar to my instructor. He has the same philosophy.
 
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