Philosophical question from a newbie

Gerry Seymour

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For MA, I think, at the very least, even a modified technique should be useful, in the event thst you had to use it. If techniques become so modified thst they are either, not useful or so modified, thst they are also incorrect, even for a modified technique, but are still acceptable, that is selling out. I made a post about a video that I saw, in which an older guy was taking a belt test. He was essentially just flailing his legs in the air and not really kicking per se. To me, that seems like too much of a modification to be legitimate. Even at an advanced age, isn't karate supposed to teach Balance and some body control?
Is it really "selling out", just because a technique isn't combat-functional? Let's say I require students to perform a round kick on both sides for a given rank. Let's also say I have a student who has knee and ankle issues (some old injury, or whatever) that makes the pivot on that leg for a reasonable round kick at any height unreliable, at best - and it also means delivering the kick with that leg wouldn't be safe for his leg (so no round kick with power on either side). Does the inability to perform that round kick mean he can't meet the general requirements for that rank? Nope. I'd just have to figure out what he needs to do to demonstrate the overall competence required, and whether I want to substitute in another specific skill requirement or just leave that one out (or let him demonstrate it at his best reasonable level).
 
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Herenorthere

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I don't know that letting someone try again after flunking is the same as lowering standards. If the same standards are being used to determine grades, and the same graduation requirements exist, then people are just being allowed to fail and learn from it (or not, as they choose).
If failure is now acceptable, how is that not lowering standards?
 
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Herenorthere

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Walking around Kirkland last weekend and saw some folks playing tennis on a court with no net. They seemed to be having a pretty good time.

Is it really "selling out", just because a technique isn't combat-functional? Let's say I require students to perform a round kick on both sides for a given rank. Let's also say I have a student who has knee and ankle issues (some old injury, or whatever) that makes the pivot on that leg for a reasonable round kick at any height unreliable, at best - and it also means delivering the kick with that leg wouldn't be safe for his leg (so no round kick with power on either side). Does the inability to perform that round kick mean he can't meet the general requirements for that rank? Nope. I'd just have to figure out what he needs to do to demonstrate the overall competence required, and whether I want to substitute in another specific skill requirement or just leave that one out (or let him demonstrate it at his best reasonable level).
Ok but regardless of the variation, modification, etc, are there still not certain aspects of a technique that must be demonstrated in order for it to be deemed acceptable? Would just sticking your leg out in the air, while off balance suffice as a kick?
 

Gerry Seymour

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His techniques werent modified (other than kicking lower than the younger students). His technique was just beginner level bad. Kicking lower didnt make the technique bad. If the techniques had been modified in some other way to suit his physical limitations, that wouldnt have made them bad either. My best guess as to why his technique was bad (compared to other students of the same rank) is that the instructor was promoting based on memorization and time in grade rather than on skill.

There are other possibilities. Maybe the instructor is just happy to see the older guy show up and make the effort and doesnt care about what he achieves in terms of skill. Maybe hes just used to teaching kids and doesnt have the teaching skills to guide an uncoordinated older person to a higher level of body awareness and coordination. Maybe the school has large classes and he doesnt have the time to devote the individual attention to helping one student who is significantly less coordinated and athletic then the rest of the students.

Im not personally a fan of any of those options. I place a much, much higher value on functional skill than on memorizing a curriculum. I dont find time in grade + memorization to be a useful basis for a rank system. Im a firm believer that most people the age of the gentleman in the video have the capacity to develop a much higher degree of martial skill than he demonstrates. And I started the martial arts in the bottom 1% of the general population or lower in terms of natural talent and athleticism, so I will always spend the extra time and effort to help students who are struggling to develop the necessary skills and attributes for the arts I teach.

But its not my school. If the older student in the video is happy with the training experience he is having and the instructor is happy with having someone of that skill level represent his expected standard for wearing that rank in his academy, then theyre both getting what they want. As long as the student isnt being told that he has reached the level of having functional fighting ability with what hes practicing, then I wont criticize.
I've also seen instructors who promote based on the individual's intention. Those intending just to get more fit, learn to move better, etc., were promoted without regard to function of the techniques, since they weren't training for application. Emotionally, I don't like that, but I can't really come up with a good argument against it, so long as it doesn't bother the students who are held to a different standard.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Do people in US martial arts clubs ever fail grading examinations?
"US martial arts" is not a monolithic group. I failed my yellow belt test in NGA (first colored belt). I saw people in the same organization pass their shodan test, who I would have failed if they'd been testing with me.
 

Gerry Seymour

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With respect to adults learning MA, has anybody observed that instructors have lower expectations, in general, for older people? I don't know, I'm just asking. As someone who, for various reasons, has had to do things later in life, my personal experience is that they do. Kids are good advertising, if they perform well. They can, potentially, win tournaments or perform impressive techniques. They have potential to represent the school in a positive way. Older people robably aren't going to win competitoons and, foe the most part, the majority of students are kids, so adults aren't going to attract students for a school. My experience has been that instructors just don't have an interest in whether older people succeed, so if they (older karate students) don't use proper technique, then instructors don't mind looking the other way. I think for a lot of schools and instructors, not just karate, adults simply represent extra money, and there are no real expectations for their performance. In fact, I had teacher (not karate), who actually told me just that. This teacher repeatedly would say, "well, you aren't going to do this for a living, so don't worry about doing it right."
Something to consider: what if it's about the challenge? I push people who train under me. If something is easy for them, I expect more than the easy version. An easy example is our falls and rolls. Most younger students (under 30) learn them easily and quickly, compared to the over-40 beginners. So, in general, I place higher requirements in these on the younger students, because they can reach them and because the work required to reach that level is good for them.
 

Gerry Seymour

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In our old dojo, I'd say thirty percent of the people testing failed their grading examinations.

After all, the signs up in the dojo said "Belt test" Tuesday night. And several times everyone failed.
I think failure (and learning how to handle it) is good for development. I never figured out how to get folks to fail enough at testing - I tend to test them when I'm pretty sure they'll pass, and most folks don't ask to test until they feel confident about it. I never kept the program running long enough (had to restart 3 times - waiting to restart the 4th) to get anyone to the ranks where I expected more failures.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Granted, some people have slow metabolism and other issues affecting weight. I realize age is also a factor. However, when a lot instructors under the age of 50 are noticeably overweight, that's a n issue.
This, again, can sometimes be deceiving. I had a friend who worked out a lot more than me in his teens and early 20's (I probably matched him by late 20's and into our early 30's). He was always significantly overweight, in spite of that. Me, I just ate anything and everything back then, worked out when I found time (I was traveling a lot then, so mostly just 2-3 MA classes a week) and stayed fit. He tried to be more conscious of his eating and worked out nearly every day (strength and cardio) and just couldn't make headway.
 

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Ok but regardless of the variation, modification, etc, are there still not certain aspects of a technique that must be demonstrated in order for it to be deemed acceptable? Would just sticking your leg out in the air, while off balance suffice as a kick?
Again, it depends what limitations exist. If someone cannot balance well on their left leg because of muscular issues, then managing to get out anything resembling the proper kick, while standing on said leg, would take a lot of development. If part of the point of a program is the development of the individual (this is supposed to be inherent in -do arts, and is certainly a factor in mine), then having someone work to do something that is hard - even if it's not functional for fighting - is worth it. If the alternative is simply omitting the kick on that side, that's also a valid choice, to spend more time on functional technique, but I'd require something extra to make up for the challenge not presented (since others have to do both sides).
 

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Ok but regardless of the variation, modification, etc, are there still not certain aspects of a technique that must be demonstrated in order for it to be deemed acceptable? Would just sticking your leg out in the air, while off balance suffice as a kick?
I would. I might not consider it to be a "good" kick (however we care to define "good").

Here's the thing. I think a lot of things get a lot simpler when you separate the definition of an activity from the evaluation of skill. What I mean is, those aren't the same thing at all.

We have a lot of folks around here who point out that there are a lot of other reasons to do martial arts. To be clear, I agree with them completely. There ARE a lot of benefits to martial arts outside of being able to fight.

And, you can appreciate a lot of these benefits even if you really stink at fighting. The key, though, is if you stink at fighting, you should know it. And either care about it enough to get better or not care and just enjoy what you're doing.

Simply put, you can do something you're really bad at and still appreciate a lot of the benefit of the activity. And it's a shame that our culture has become so fixated on skill that kids really aren't particpating (or even have the opportunity to participate) in youth sports just for fun and exercise. They and their parents are being pressured more and more, earlier and earlier, to encourage kids to specialize. It's big business, and an issue that is going to come to a head in the next 10 years, I believe.

Point is simply this. If you stink at martial arts and can bare stick your leg out, are you doing martial arts? Yes. Are you gaining benefit from your activity? Maybe. Are you good at it? No. And all of that is okay, and we should be teaching this philosophy to our kids through our words and our actions as parents and coaches. Not overinflating a kid's understanding of their skill level, but instead focusing on skill development, encouraging effort and improvement, cultivating a strong work ethic, and developing resilience through failure and success as part of the process. As @drop bear has shared before from the cartoon Adventure Time, something like "being bad at something is the first step toward being kind of good at something."
 

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I want to acknowledge that in fighting and some other activities, there can be a significant cost for failure outside of a training environment, so knowing if you stink at something is really important. We have some folks around here who have never been in a fight, but think they're well equipped to defend themselves in a violent attack. That's pretty dangerous, in my opinion. This is like someone who has only read the Home Depot house repair manual deciding to update the wiring on their old knob and tube wiring from the early 1900s by themselves. The chances of failing are high, and the cost for failure could be dire.

I just want to acknowledge this because there is some context in my replies that is important.
 

drop bear

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I would. I might not consider it to be a "good" kick (however we care to define "good").

Here's the thing. I think a lot of things get a lot simpler when you separate the definition of an activity from the evaluation of skill. What I mean is, those aren't the same thing at all.

We have a lot of folks around here who point out that there are a lot of other reasons to do martial arts. To be clear, I agree with them completely. There ARE a lot of benefits to martial arts outside of being able to fight.

And, you can appreciate a lot of these benefits even if you really stink at fighting. The key, though, is if you stink at fighting, you should know it. And either care about it enough to get better or not care and just enjoy what you're doing.

Simply put, you can do something you're really bad at and still appreciate a lot of the benefit of the activity. And it's a shame that our culture has become so fixated on skill that kids really aren't particpating (or even have the opportunity to participate) in youth sports just for fun and exercise. They and their parents are being pressured more and more, earlier and earlier, to encourage kids to specialize. It's big business, and an issue that is going to come to a head in the next 10 years, I believe.

Point is simply this. If you stink at martial arts and can bare stick your leg out, are you doing martial arts? Yes. Are you gaining benefit from your activity? Maybe. Are you good at it? No. And all of that is okay, and we should be teaching this philosophy to our kids through our words and our actions as parents and coaches. Not overinflating a kid's understanding of their skill level, but instead focusing on skill development, encouraging effort and improvement, cultivating a strong work ethic, and developing resilience through failure and success as part of the process. As @drop bear has shared before from the cartoon Adventure Time, something like "being bad at something is the first step toward being kind of good at something."
 

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Back in the '70s, Karate used to be the art where people racked up broken bones, black eyes, and missing teeth.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
We also wore flares, orange, yellow and brown were part of interior decor and cars broke-down at least once a week!

With medical and dental care costs as they are, Im glad weve moved on!
 
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Herenorthere

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Because they're still failing. The only change is they're being allowed to try to do better. Which is development. Failing and continuing is a much better lesson than fail-and-quit.
It is possible that, by weeding out those who did fail, then what you have left are those who are either more capable, or who work harder. To me, if you are allowing those who did fail, to remain among those who did not, that comprises the group already living up to a higher standard. They didn't need to fail first, to realize they had to try harder. Why do original grades remain on your college transcript, even after you retake a class and get a better grade? Try failing some classes in college then taking them again. You're not getting into Harvard Law school like that. Failure, is failure and I don't know how you can rationalize it any other way. Giving someone a second chance is giving that person a second chance to fail. That's creating a lower standard. It's the way everything is going in society because the young people of today are too overindulged and catered to, to handle the ramifications of failure, which is essentially someone saying, "no," and they are unaccustomed to that concept. Coddling and enabling are setting a lower standard.
 
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Herenorthere

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Obviously, there are kids who play sports because they want scholarships or because they have natural talent that they want to develop to progress to a higher level. There are also some kids who play for fun and exercise. However, if you are in a group class in karate, and there are some people (adults) who simply want exercise and some who really want to excel at MA, how would the instructor know the difference? How would he/she evaluate and instruct/correct, without knowing who is there for what purpose?
There are no definitive right answers. To me, if you are in a "class" then the object is to learn what is being taught. While some people may do some things better than others, there is still a point where something is being done right and when it is not. There are "cardio" kickboxing classes for people who are looking for exercise. So, maybe there should be cardio karate classes, as well.
 
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