Dan Ranks: A Comparison of Ideologies

dvcochran

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What I use to do, which I’ll probably get flack for (but me no care)…we didn’t spar any no contact to the face, not even with the kids.

So….all my guys that wanted to fight in a tourney fought in the Back Belt division. Yeah, most of them got smoked, but never embarrassed. One of the reason was all my students fought everyone, including the black belts, they were used to doing so on a regular basis. One of them, as an actual white belt, won at least his first fight in every single tourney he fought in (about twenty of them) and placed many times. He was a good athlete who didn’t look like he was. He looked fat and slow and was anything but. When he finally made Black belt in real life, he retired, saying “the thrill is gone”. (By then he didn’t look fat anymore and had won the division a few times)

For my kids, I had any of them interested come to several tournaments and watch all day. Then had them “teach themselves no contact sparring” How? Easy. They all did bag work as part of their karate education and training. We had them split time from actual bag work with “flick contact” to the bag. Then no contact on the bag. (on their own time) Then they did it on the cement poles holding up the I-beams of the ceiling. And, no, nobody ever got hurt. Ever. You heard a few “ows” now and then but no big deal. (that's the best way to teach control in my opinion)

Then we let them practice with each other. They all competed well, were very successful. And there were dozens of them. Best part was…when you had one of those divisions that was 11-13 years old (or whatever) you know how big the size difference with kids can be. If they competed against a monster who was trying to hurt them, they would just blast the kid off his feet with a face punch.

As for actual sandbagging that’s not fair to the student. How are you supposed to improve your skills when competing against people you’re so much better than? That’s just plain dumb.
We segregate more by size than rank so you will line up in front of all ranks.
For tournaments we have 4-6 special sessions a year where we set up regulation size rings (this varies some with non-sanctioned tourneys) have corner judges and a center and go through everything.
It is good for the competitors and for the BB’s working to get referee certification.
 

skribs

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I think it's worth keeping in mind that, as OP alludes to in their post, TKD and BJJ have extremely different ideas about what level of experience/expertise each belt color represents. A TKD black belt is, IMO, roughly analogous to a BJJ blue belt, while a BJJ black belt is more like a TKD 5th dan.
BJJ also has their colors in the wrong order. Purple before blue? Black before red? Blasphemy!
 

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There's an in-between. For example, I don't have the authority to promote students in my school. However, I often lead classes by myself, without oversight of my Master. This may be when he's busy with administrative stuff, on break, or even once when he was on vacation.
You are still under his oversight, however loosely.
I know you aren't doing this intentionally, but it does seem a little bit unfair to me. Imagine if a school district held their students back for 3 years, so the middle school football game has 13-year-olds from one school competing against 16-year-olds from another.
Tournaments are already broken down by age, gender and rank, so your analogy doesn't really work.
How would YOU break them down into groups?
[EDIT] Within our own school, we don't break them down. Everybody spars everybody, regardless of age, gender, size, or rank.
 

skribs

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You are still under his oversight, however loosely.
Fair enough. Actually he did install a security camera when he left, and a few times talked to me through it.
Tournaments are already broken down by age, gender and rank, so your analogy doesn't really work.
How would YOU break them down into groups?
Also size.

My analogy still holds. Rank is to signify a certain level of experience. What you have is someone who would be a higher belt in other schools. It would be like someone fighting down an age bracket or down a weight class. To make it more accurate, maybe it would be "we only celebrate his birthday every other year, so we consider him 8 years old even though he was born 16 years ago."
[EDIT] Within our own school, we don't break them down. Everybody spars everybody, regardless of age, gender, size, or rank.

There's a huge difference between training and competition. Should I compete against a 6 year old purple belt?
 

andyjeffries

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I think this depends on what you define as "teaching". You can be a KKW certified Instructor Level 1 at 2nd or 3rd Dan (if I remember correctly). Level 2 (Master) is at 4th Dan, and I believe 7th Dan is required for Level 3 (Grand Master).
Sorry, you aren't remembering correctly.

You can attend the 3rd Class Kukkiwon International Master Instructor Course as a 2nd/3rd Dan and you get a "Completion certificate" on the final day after the written exam and physical test. However, that doesn't make you a certified instructor. You get that certificate after you completed the requirements, but they haven't been marked/graded yet and people DO fail the master course. If you do exceptionally well on the course (often by attitude rather than actual skill) you may get a "Citation", but this is not necessarily guaranteeing you a pass on the course.

If you are 4th Dan (or later attain 4th Dan and pay $50 because the 2nd/3rd Dan course was $50 cheaper) and you passed the course, you get a "Qualification certificate". This qualifies (the Kukkiwon refers to it as being "licensed") you as a "Sabeom" or master. There are some that believe this certificate is required for the Kukkiwon to consider you a master, but Kukkiwon staff called me Master Jeffries before I attended the course.

When you get to 6th Dan and have a 3rd Class certificate, you can attend the course again (yes, the same course, no different content) and get the same certificate process of Completion -> Qualification (but this time with 2nd Class on it) if you pass.

When you get to 8th Dan and have a 2nd Class, you can go for 1st Class, exactly the same way.

Definitely 3rd Class qualification is Master rank though, not just "Instructor". There are some people that consider you need a 1st Class certificate before you are considered a Grandmaster, but again, Kukkiwon staff and seniors were calling my instructor by that title before he received his 1st Class qualification certificate.

I haven't specifically asked but I think it's fair to say Kukkiwon sees 1-3rd Dan as student, 4-6th Dan as master/instructor and 7-9th Dan as grandmaster. Remember though, Kukkiwon is a Korea-based organisation and in Korean they only use the title Sabeomnim for 4th Dan + 3rd Class and above. It doesn't matter if you're a 9th Dan + 1st Class, they would still use the title Sabeomnim when referring to you. If you own a dojang, you are Kwanjangnim, but that is not related to rank but dojang ownership.

Hope this helps (I've been through the process a couple of times, kept an online diary of both times, my certs are only if anyone wants to see what they look like, etc), if you have any questions, let me know.
 

dvcochran

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Sorry, you aren't remembering correctly.

You can attend the 3rd Class Kukkiwon International Master Instructor Course as a 2nd/3rd Dan and you get a "Completion certificate" on the final day after the written exam and physical test. However, that doesn't make you a certified instructor. You get that certificate after you completed the requirements, but they haven't been marked/graded yet and people DO fail the master course. If you do exceptionally well on the course (often by attitude rather than actual skill) you may get a "Citation", but this is not necessarily guaranteeing you a pass on the course.

If you are 4th Dan (or later attain 4th Dan and pay $50 because the 2nd/3rd Dan course was $50 cheaper) and you passed the course, you get a "Qualification certificate". This qualifies (the Kukkiwon refers to it as being "licensed") you as a "Sabeom" or master. There are some that believe this certificate is required for the Kukkiwon to consider you a master, but Kukkiwon staff called me Master Jeffries before I attended the course.

When you get to 6th Dan and have a 3rd Class certificate, you can attend the course again (yes, the same course, no different content) and get the same certificate process of Completion -> Qualification (but this time with 2nd Class on it) if you pass.

When you get to 8th Dan and have a 2nd Class, you can go for 1st Class, exactly the same way.

Definitely 3rd Class qualification is Master rank though, not just "Instructor". There are some people that consider you need a 1st Class certificate before you are considered a Grandmaster, but again, Kukkiwon staff and seniors were calling my instructor by that title before he received his 1st Class qualification certificate.

I haven't specifically asked but I think it's fair to say Kukkiwon sees 1-3rd Dan as student, 4-6th Dan as master/instructor and 7-9th Dan as grandmaster. Remember though, Kukkiwon is a Korea-based organisation and in Korean they only use the title Sabeomnim for 4th Dan + 3rd Class and above. It doesn't matter if you're a 9th Dan + 1st Class, they would still use the title Sabeomnim when referring to you. If you own a dojang, you are Kwanjangnim, but that is not related to rank but dojang ownership.

Hope this helps (I've been through the process a couple of times, kept an online diary of both times, my certs are only if anyone wants to see what they look like, etc), if you have any questions, let me know.
This is one of the bureaucratic quirks In Kukkiwon. I commend them for the detail and definition but it easy to see that much of what you mention is about money. I get the master course and referee certification blurs the line between WT & Kukkiwon but to say a 6th or higher is missing qualities and/or skills just does not seem right. To me this should be addressed in the curriculum or make the competition related qualifications fully WT.
To my knowledge how you define Sabeonim and Kwanjnim is the same in the states. That has been my experience for the most part.

Sir, may I ask what rank you are now. Better than asking for your DOB to look it up.
 

andyjeffries

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This is one of the bureaucratic quirks In Kukkiwon. I commend them for the detail and definition but it easy to see that much of what you mention is about money. I get the master course and referee certification blurs the line between WT & Kukkiwon but to say a 6th or higher is missing qualities and/or skills just does not seem right. To me this should be addressed in the curriculum or make the competition related qualifications fully WT.
To my knowledge how you define Sabeonim and Kwanjnim is the same in the states. That has been my experience for the most part.

Sir, may I ask what rank you are now. Better than asking for your DOB to look it up.
The funny thing I see it as the opposite. When I did the course twice, it was $200 for 4-5 days of 8+ hours per day training and lessons with some of the best grandmasters in the world. It's cheap as chips for that price! The course is worth it's weight in gold - the training and the networking (and relationship building with Kukkiwon) are all worth having, but put together for a couple of hundred dollars...

That said, I know if you take the course outside of Korea it can be considerably more expensive - that's the cost of flying some instructors over from Korea, paying them to be away from their families, expenses in that country (rather that using the Kukkiwon/Taekwondowon to train in and their own houses' beds), and some profit for the local organisers, etc.

I also would definitely not say that 6th Dans are expected to have all qualities and skills. In Taekwondo there is definite progression all the way up to 9th Dan. My instructor took his 1st Class course when I did my 3rd Class and we definitely discussed new details that we both learnt on the course (of course his were much more subtle than mine, but the level of detail I picked up on the 2nd Class course was more than I picked up on the 3rd Class).

I've seen a lot of people use "Kwanjangnim" to mean "Grandmaster", particularly from the states actually. Glad you're on the same page though.

Sure, I'm currently a Kukkiwon 6th Dan and Changmookwan 7th Dan, due to test for my 7th/8th (pair) in January next year, although likely to be late spring/early summer 2022. Strangely my 5th Dan Kukkiwon certificate is on our club's website (and my CMK 7th Dan), but my 6th Dan isn't! Should fix that sometime...
 

dvcochran

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The funny thing I see it as the opposite. When I did the course twice, it was $200 for 4-5 days of 8+ hours per day training and lessons with some of the best grandmasters in the world. It's cheap as chips for that price! The course is worth it's weight in gold - the training and the networking (and relationship building with Kukkiwon) are all worth having, but put together for a couple of hundred dollars...

That said, I know if you take the course outside of Korea it can be considerably more expensive - that's the cost of flying some instructors over from Korea, paying them to be away from their families, expenses in that country (rather that using the Kukkiwon/Taekwondowon to train in and their own houses' beds), and some profit for the local organisers, etc.

I also would definitely not say that 6th Dans are expected to have all qualities and skills. In Taekwondo there is definite progression all the way up to 9th Dan. My instructor took his 1st Class course when I did my 3rd Class and we definitely discussed new details that we both learnt on the course (of course his were much more subtle than mine, but the level of detail I picked up on the 2nd Class course was more than I picked up on the 3rd Class).

I've seen a lot of people use "Kwanjangnim" to mean "Grandmaster", particularly from the states actually. Glad you're on the same page though.

Sure, I'm currently a Kukkiwon 6th Dan and Changmookwan 7th Dan, due to test for my 7th/8th (pair) in January next year, although likely to be late spring/early summer 2022. Strangely my 5th Dan Kukkiwon certificate is on our club's website (and my CMK 7th Dan), but my 6th Dan isn't! Should fix that sometime...
From that perspective I fully agree. When I went through the Master course here I thought it was lcking. But it was still cool to workout and be around other TKD folks.
A person should be learning at any rank yes but most have thoroughly gone over the whole curriculum to proficiency well before 6th-7th Dan. But it involves much more than curriculum at those levels
Will physical movement and mental acuity continue? I think so.
 

Buka

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We segregate more by size than rank so you will line up in front of all ranks.
For tournaments we have 4-6 special sessions a year where we set up regulation size rings (this varies some with non-sanctioned tourneys) have corner judges and a center and go through everything.
It is good for the competitors and for the BB’s working to get referee certification.
Do they have clinics teaching people how to ref where you are? Used to be some nice ones where I came up. Even taught basic first aid, too.
 

dvcochran

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Do they have clinics teaching people how to ref where you are? Used to be some nice ones where I came up. Even taught basic first aid, too.
Yes but they are not 'official'. There are different grades of WT/Kukkiwon referee's. It gets kind of convoluted since there is a 'pecking order' to it.
We hold classes internally 4 times a year and it follows the WT ruleset to help anyone who wants to get officially certified. It follows a standard but there is variability in who is running the classes.
That said, we have not had one since 2019.
The closest WT/Kukkiwon referee certification or Master courses I am aware of are in Chicago. And they are not held every year. I keep hoping they will start something in Atlanta.
 

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From that perspective I fully agree. When I went through the Master course here I thought it was lcking. But it was still cool to workout and be around other TKD folks.
Yeah, I've heard a lot of people say that the courses outside of Korea are less than great value for money. If you can go to Korea though, it's super cheap for the course (and you get the cultural experience of being in Korea, training in Korea, having more instructors on the course, etc).
 

dvcochran

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Yeah, I've heard a lot of people say that the courses outside of Korea are less than great value for money. If you can go to Korea though, it's super cheap for the course (and you get the cultural experience of being in Korea, training in Korea, having more instructors on the course, etc).
If memory serves, it cost me $600 for the Masters course but that was for the 2nd class (yes, I am 5th Dan). Thank you GM Shin. He drove most of me going to the course but the WTMU was heavily involved in the organizing side of the program.
Having not been to a program in Korea I cannot comment on how different the programs are but I am sure you have experience being around a bunch of Korean Masters; very formal and traditional. I found that somewhat missing at the course, even though it was almost all ran by Koreans. The content and curriculum was solid and thorough and I learned quite a lot, albeit some things slightly different ways of doing what we were already doing so somewhat moot. We have had a few go since me so we actively use and promote the program.

Honestly, how different do you think it can be?
 

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Yeah, I've heard a lot of people say that the courses outside of Korea are less than great value for money. If you can go to Korea though, it's super cheap for the course (and you get the cultural experience of being in Korea, training in Korea, having more instructors on the course, etc).
You give the impression that only koreans are able to teach the course. Is this accurate?
 

dvcochran

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You give the impression that only koreans are able to teach the course. Is this accurate?
FWIW, I do not think that is wholly true but it is wholly about the Major Korean art/sport and the countries heritage. So yea, there is a lot leaning on Korean instructors.
 

andyjeffries

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You give the impression that only koreans are able to teach the course. Is this accurate?
Errr, not at all. However, what I would say is that Kukkiwon sets the standard for Kukkiwon Taekwondo, so the instructors that Kukkiwon appoints as their official instructors are the ones I would want to learn from. I believe all the current batch are Korean (or at least Korean origin), but if they appointed a non-Korean as an official Kukkiwon instructor, then that's completely fine.

I would say though that most Kukkiwon Taekwondo instructors internationally do not understand Taekwondo or Korean culture (which is infused in Taekwondo culture) to the same level as the official Kukkiwon instructors. Not all, but most.

The reason I wrote about the courses in Korea being better than those taught abroad is that I have taken the master instructor course twice in Korea and the poom/dan examiner course in Austria. On the examiner course they sent 2-3 instructors over from Korea, so every lesson was with the same people. On the examiners' courses every lesson was taught by someone different. Every one of them was top of the chain in terms of reputation and ability.

That's why I feel it was better to do it in Korea.
 

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If memory serves, it cost me $600 for the Masters course but that was for the 2nd class (yes, I am 5th Dan). Thank you GM Shin. He drove most of me going to the course but the WTMU was heavily involved in the organizing side of the program.
Having not been to a program in Korea I cannot comment on how different the programs are but I am sure you have experience being around a bunch of Korean Masters; very formal and traditional. I found that somewhat missing at the course, even though it was almost all ran by Koreans. The content and curriculum was solid and thorough and I learned quite a lot, albeit some things slightly different ways of doing what we were already doing so somewhat moot. We have had a few go since me so we actively use and promote the program.

Honestly, how different do you think it can be?
My only experience of an official Kukkiwon course outside of Korea was the poom/dan examiner course in Austria. And while I'm glad to have done it, my experience of it was less than 100% positive. (and I've heard similar things about the master courses held outside Korea from other people).

So from my perspective, I think it can be very different. There were certainly some learning processes for international masters on the course in Korea, on the expectations of masters and Taekwondoin.

For example, on the poom/dan examiner course - the final exam questions were read out before we even went to the exam hall (maybe even before the lunch break). There was definite asking/sharing of answers between candidates. On the master courses, it was done in exam conditions and there was an invigilator walking the room. The only questions were from candidate to invigilator to say "I can't understand the English in this question, what does it mean" when the translation wasn't great.

I kept diaries (they're all online) of the courses I attended but I summarised the poom/dan examiner course as:

I think any Continued Professional Development is good for Taekwondo instructors and masters, but if the rules weren’t changing next year to require this certificate, I wouldn’t recommend attending it in and of itself.
 

andyjeffries

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Just to add as well, I didn't feel 100% glowing about the Kukkiwon master courses. The main problem I saw when I did the course in 2013 was that one of the students acted as translator for the instructors that didn't speak English. While I commend them for doing it, there were lots of times when the instructor spoke for 30 seconds and the translator summed it up in 5-8 seconds. I felt like I was missing out on a whole bunch of knowledge with that.

So I decided after that course to learn Korean. By the time I did my next course in 2016 I spoke some Korean, but not enough to really understand all of what was said. Now my Korean is better and while I'm sure I still won't get 100% next time I do it, I feel that I'd get enough to not need the translator.

That said, the Kukkiwon has translators and staff members that speak both (in the International Business Team for example) so I think that having one of them always present in the lectures and lessons would help.

That said on the first course in the black belt poomsae lesson we had GM Seol, Seong-ran teaching us (former world poomsae champion and now one of the coaches of the JCalicu Demo Team). At the time she didn't speak much English (she does a bit more now), but her lesson taught through mimickry and humour was my favourite lesson. She had the whole room in tears at points.
 

dvcochran

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My only experience of an official Kukkiwon course outside of Korea was the poom/dan examiner course in Austria. And while I'm glad to have done it, my experience of it was less than 100% positive. (and I've heard similar things about the master courses held outside Korea from other people).

So from my perspective, I think it can be very different. There were certainly some learning processes for international masters on the course in Korea, on the expectations of masters and Taekwondoin.

For example, on the poom/dan examiner course - the final exam questions were read out before we even went to the exam hall (maybe even before the lunch break). There was definite asking/sharing of answers between candidates. On the master courses, it was done in exam conditions and there was an invigilator walking the room. The only questions were from candidate to invigilator to say "I can't understand the English in this question, what does it mean" when the translation wasn't great.

I kept diaries (they're all online) of the courses I attended but I summarised the poom/dan examiner course as:

I think any Continued Professional Development is good for Taekwondo instructors and masters, but if the rules weren’t changing next year to require this certificate, I wouldn’t recommend attending it in and of itself.
I get the logic; to hold and verify the established standards are being held. Unfortunately, the reality is the standards are vague at best in some areas and a moving target in others. The larger picture is easy to see and follow but can get lost in the details.
This has been a consistent theme in all of my 37 years of WT/Kukkiwon TKD.
MDK has been a much more established and consistent experience.
 

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Errr, not at all. However, what I would say is that Kukkiwon sets the standard for Kukkiwon Taekwondo, so the instructors that Kukkiwon appoints as their official instructors are the ones I would want to learn from. I believe all the current batch are Korean (or at least Korean origin), but if they appointed a non-Korean as an official Kukkiwon instructor, then that's completely fine.

I would say though that most Kukkiwon Taekwondo instructors internationally do not understand Taekwondo or Korean culture (which is infused in Taekwondo culture) to the same level as the official Kukkiwon instructors. Not all, but most.

The reason I wrote about the courses in Korea being better than those taught abroad is that I have taken the master instructor course twice in Korea and the poom/dan examiner course in Austria. On the examiner course they sent 2-3 instructors over from Korea, so every lesson was with the same people. On the examiners' courses every lesson was taught by someone different. Every one of them was top of the chain in terms of reputation and ability.

That's why I feel it was better to do it in Korea.
How many instructors are approved at a time for these courses? Are they listed somewhere?
 

andyjeffries

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I get the logic; to hold and verify the established standards are being held. Unfortunately, the reality is the standards are vague at best in some areas and a moving target in others. The larger picture is easy to see and follow but can get lost in the details.
This has been a consistent theme in all of my 37 years of WT/Kukkiwon TKD.
MDK has been a much more established and consistent experience.
Errr, I disagree mostly with what you wrote, but it's just my 2p worth opinion.

I think there have been some small changes over the years with standards, but Korea has been pretty unified for the past 30 years, so I think most of the problems with international instructors feeling the standards aren't well defined comes from not learning from official Kukkiwon instructors. There are a lot of people who learn from their instructor, who learn from theirs, etc up the chain and in reality the top people either didn't keep attending courses with official instructors over the decades or decided their own way was best. So their version of Taekwondo has now digressed (or remains stuck in time) through their lineage and people see that they have Kukkiwon (WHATEVER) Dan and therefore their way is current and correct. It's often not the case, but then the student learns from someone else and suddenly there are changes or vagueness.

I first learnt from Kukkiwon instructors in 2012 and can say that through to my last time training with one in 2018 (was due back in 2020, but y'know, Covid) all of the instructors were consistent, all of them did things the same way, there was no vagueness. However...

Self-defence is one area though that it's a moving target, Kukkiwon is working hard to develop a decent self-defence curriculum and hasn't done the best of jobs at disseminating that information yet. However, when I first saw the whole syllabus on a video on the 2016 course, it's been consistently talked about since then.

The Kwans are definitely most established and consistent internationally, because as I wrote above, lots of instructors that consider themselves (WHATEVER) Kwan, still do things that have been passed down through generations and never been kept up to date. If you visit the Kwan HQ in Korea and train with the senior instructors there, you'll often find that it's 100% consistent with Kukkiwon Taekwondo. I know my Kwan President is vice-chairman of the Kukkiwon High Dan Testing Panel, so he's definitely Kukkiwon standard :)

Anyway, I understand your point, but it feels very different from my viewpoint.
 

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