Probationary Black Belt ???????????

Kenpojujitsu3

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Due to a "falling out" with my original instructor I left his school in 2001 to train elsewhere and didn't return until late 2004 and then only sparingly. Anyhow, when I returned I noticed a number of 'Black Belts' with no red tips. When I asked what that meant (as I knew they didn't hold rank in other systems) I was told they were Probationary Black Belts. Apparently something got instituted where the 1st Degree Brown Belts would accumulate hours after learning the prescribed 1st Degree Black Belt material. Upon completing 100 of the 200 hours required to test for Black they would be awarded a Black Belt with no red tips without any kind of test. These 'probationary ranks' then have all of the 'privleges' of a Black Belt before their test. They give students the "birth of pain" on tests; they get saluted to before class, after class, and whenever entering/exiting the studio; and they get to line up with the Black Belts among other 'privleges and duties'. I'm curious if this practice is done in any other kenpo schools and what people think of it. I think it cheapens the experience of the Black Belt test for them as nothing changes for them except 2 inches of red tape and a piece of paper. They're already doing everything that the Black Belts do without going through test to get there. Any thoughts or comments?

James Hawkins III, HI
Hawkins Kenpo Karate
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RichK

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James, back in the 90's when I lived in Alaska our school had a similar thing. My instructor tested them (full test) for black but also video taped the test. He then sent in the tape to Mr Palanzo for him to view it and give a second thumbs up. It was more for a politics war we had going on with someone else there in the state.
 

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Kenpojujitsu3 said:
Due to a "falling out" with my original instructor I left his school in 2001 to train elsewhere and didn't return until late 2004 and then only sparingly. Anyhow, when I returned I noticed a number of 'Black Belts' with no red tips. When I asked what that meant (as I knew they didn't hold rank in other systems) I was told they were Probationary Black Belts. Apparently something got instituted where the 1st Degree Brown Belts would accumulate hours after learning the prescribed 1st Degree Black Belt material. Upon completing 100 of the 200 hours required to test for Black they would be awarded a Black Belt with no red tips without any kind of test. These 'probationary ranks' then have all of the 'privleges' of a Black Belt before their test. They give students the "birth of pain" on tests; they get saluted to before class, after class, and whenever entering/exiting the studio; and they get to line up with the Black Belts among other 'privleges and duties'. I'm curious if this practice is done in any other kenpo schools and what people think of it. I think it cheapens the experience of the Black Belt test for them as nothing changes for them except 2 inches of red tape and a piece of paper. They're already doing everything that the Black Belts do without going through test to get there. Any thoughts or comments?

James Hawkins III, HI
Hawkins Kenpo Karate
Baltimore, MD

IMO, you either get it or you don't. If you're not ready for it, then you should remain a Brown until the inst. decides that you are ready. I've never seen a prob. BB in Kenpo, usually just a Jr. BB, which they usually give to kids that are not quite old enough. In the Arnis that I study, they have a Prob. BB. As I said in the beginning...if the student is not ready why give them the belt? As for the hours...they should already be building those hours up prior to the actual BB test.

Just my .02.

Mike
 

dubljay

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IMO this is like wearing a rank you have yet to earn. Either you are a black belt, or you aren't. Personally I would not wear it because it's not something I had earned. It's a bad example to set, it's almost like lying... you wear a black belt but you have yet to test for it. I think it's a poor idea... but thats just me.

Just my opinion.

-Josh
 

John Bishop

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In Kajukenbo we have a "probationary" black belt rank. It's called "student black belt". This is the first black belt rank awarded after the student passes their black belt test. It is a probationary 1 year rank. After the year, if the student is still active and in good standing with the school, it automatically becomes a 1st degree rank, and they are given a 1st. degree certificate and red stripe. The 1st degree certificate is back dated to the date of their original black belt promotion.
The way I do this is to have the testing board sign both a "student black" and a "1st degree" certificate on the original testing day. I then hold the 1st degree certificate and present it to the student after the probationary period is over. The 1 year period is sort of a guideline. We've had student blacks take long breaks, or become inactive for several months or even a few years. So some people have been awarded their 1st degree 4-5 years after their original test.
 

dubljay

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John Bishop said:
In Kajukenbo we have a "probationary" black belt rank. It's called "student black belt". This is the first black belt rank awarded after the student passes their black belt test. It is a probationary 1 year rank. After the year, if the student is still active and in good standing with the school, it automatically becomes a 1st degree rank, and they are given a 1st. degree certificate and red stripe. The 1st degree certificate is back dated to the date of their original black belt promotion.
The way I do this is to have the testing board sign both a "student black" and a "1st degree" certificate on the original testing day. I then hold the 1st degree certificate and present it to the student after the probationary period is over. The 1 year period is sort of a guideline. We've had student blacks take long breaks, or become inactive for several months or even a few years. So some people have been awarded their 1st degree 4-5 years after their original test.

See that makes sense to me as a probationary black belt. Often times people quit after their black belt test, thinking its all over (well I've seen this in some cases), or they are burned out and need a break. But awarding a belt before it has been earned is just plain silly.
 
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Kenpojujitsu3

Kenpojujitsu3

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dubljay said:
See that makes sense to me as a probationary black belt. Often times people quit after their black belt test, thinking its all over (well I've seen this in some cases), or they are burned out and need a break. But awarding a belt before it has been earned is just plain silly.
Yeah I can get with Mr. Bishops method. I actually like that idea because I have seen SEVERAL people take a black belt test and then quit the same day as though the journey was over instead of just beginning. But I can't understand this concept of testing for all ranks yellow-1st brown and then all of the sudden here's a BLACK BELT no test. It hits me so deep that I don't go visit my original instructors school so much anymore because of the tension caused by my refusal to salute/acknowledge "Brown Belts in Black Belts clothing"
 

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John Bishop said:
In Kajukenbo we have a "probationary" black belt rank. It's called "student black belt". This is the first black belt rank awarded after the student passes their black belt test. It is a probationary 1 year rank. After the year, if the student is still active and in good standing with the school, it automatically becomes a 1st degree rank, and they are given a 1st. degree certificate and red stripe. The 1st degree certificate is back dated to the date of their original black belt promotion.
The way I do this is to have the testing board sign both a "student black" and a "1st degree" certificate on the original testing day. I then hold the 1st degree certificate and present it to the student after the probationary period is over. The 1 year period is sort of a guideline. We've had student blacks take long breaks, or become inactive for several months or even a few years. So some people have been awarded their 1st degree 4-5 years after their original test.
I utilize it as well. Because of the extraordinary curriculum, required hours for each course level, and our teaching method, we often make such awards. The key is if you came to the school and watched students perform, you would have a difficult time determining who is who. The performance level of all students reaches a significant point well before black, so that black is simply an accumulation of certain information, not neccesarily additional skills.

Also I have a particular way in teaching that spreads the knowledge laterally to all students regardless of rank. In any given session, depending upon whom is in attendance, I will give specific viable information to a student who may be at a lower course rank intentionally. The student then has the responsibility to see that everyone is "introduced" to that knowledge, which I then reinforce.

This simply means everyone is oblidged to listen to everyone, rank level not withstanding. Thus on some level, the knowledge of the system is a product of the "collective" consciousness of all students and participants. Information ultimately will not flow just down, but outward to everyone's benefit. Most importantly, you will find no ego problems within our group no matter what your level. If you do, some yellow belt just might embarass you with a little information you don't have. I have one student in particular on the floor religiously at least two nights a week, who is first generation on the tree, who made black the same day Tatum, and Trejo made brown. He's on the floor doing everything everyone else does, wears no stripes, and works with whoever is in front of him. Only his grey hair gives him away.

Additionally, we wear no stripes or any belt markings indicative of rank level. On any given night you could see someone as high as 8th, and a 18 year old 1st black training together. YOU wouldn't be able to tell the differance other than the age tip off. Everyone moves well, with solid basics. All black belt ranks are emeritus/honorary in nature. If someone claims to be a certified teacher, ask to see their signed, sealed, and notarized teaching credential. This is the desired document, over and above rank course completion diplomas. When you pass the black course, you receive your diploma. But that's all it means. You passed. Nothing more or less. It is not a statement of anything other than meeting the requirements for the course. Should you quit the same day, (nobody ever has) so be it. You earned it.

We by design, focus on knowledge and skills, and not so much as black belt as a rank. It marks a certain level of knowledge and a source of pride to students for passing a course, but they put things in perspective and recognize its just a another belt and there is much more to learn. To that end, I have large numbers of black belts regularly in every class. Some as long as thirty plus years under my tutleledge, and they never seem to develop a "know-it-all" attitude. Some green belt just might make them look bad.

"We are the Borg. Resistance Is Futile - you will be assimilated" is a running joke in the "collective" known as SunLevel Four Kenpo. :)

Keep them honest "over there" Hawkman and look out for the politics. :)
 
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kenpochad

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dubljay said:
IMO this is like wearing a rank you have yet to earn. Either you are a black belt, or you aren't. Personally I would not wear it because it's not something I had earned. It's a bad example to set, it's almost like lying... you wear a black belt but you have yet to test for it. I think it's a poor idea... but thats just me.

Just my opinion.

-Josh
I agree, when you pass the test for BB then you should be a BB I mean
why would you test for something if you have to wait a year for before you get it . just test when you ready. Either you are or you arent
 

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At our school students are awarded a plain black belt with no stripes after the completion of their black belt test and thesis. This is a probationary black belt. Six months later, if they have remained a student in good standing and kept up regular attendance they are awarded their stripe. At this time they are a full first degree black belt. This is done for several reasons.

Partly this is a throw back to a time when instructors were tapping students for unpaid mandatory teaching assistance. This is no longer a practice at our school. We do have student assistants, but it is not a requirement for rank, and our student assistants are hand picked, trained and retrained consistently, and required to uphold the standards and practices of our organization.

Now this practice exists for two reasons primarily. One is to stem the tide of quitters in the first degree. This is not a huge problem at our school, but students tend to burn out at one of several stages, and black belt is one. In my experience, this is due either to the student feeling they have arrived and no longer need to train, a gross misjudgement for any student at any skill level, or they moved into the next higher class, and since they are no longer the cock of the walk they get frustrated and give up. Some people have difficulty excepting the move from front of the line to back of the line, and I make it a practice to instruct my students from their first class in the understanding that growth in martial arts is a process. They will move from the back of the room as the new student, to the front of the room as the most advanced student, and then be rewarded upon achieving their next rank with becoming the new student again. This is a process to be embraced, not ashamed of. The other is to give the student time to ingest their growth.

I have no problem with a probationary black belt. I was one bad dude when I got my black belt, but my understanding, perspective, and skill level sky rocketed in the intervening six months, and it took me that long to accept the change in my life. I needed time to absorb the transition to black belt, and when my probationary period had ended and I had recieved my stripes, I was truly a black belt.

The journey to black belt takes time, and the transition doesn't occur over night, just because the belt ceremony last only a few minutes, doesn't mean that you go from brown to black so quickly.


-Rob
 
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kenpochad

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Never looked at it like that good point. There is alot that i dont understand not been able to experience them. that why I like this sit.
Im not yet a BB but Im on my why I will test for my brown september
:asian:
 
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Kenpojujitsu3

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I keep noticing that other people have experienced the "probationary" black belt as well. I have noticed one key difference however. Everyone else is saying "we have it, after a test". I'm getting the general idea that a probationary rank without a test is largely unheard of and just may be worthy of my special flag that only a few have truly earned. The few, the proud, the...

:bs:
 

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Kenpojujitsu3 said:
I keep noticing that other people have experienced the "probationary" black belt as well. I have noticed one key difference however. Everyone else is saying "we have it, after a test". I'm getting the general idea that a probationary rank without a test is largely unheard of and just may be worthy of my special flag that only a few have truly earned. The few, the proud, the...

:bs:
:)
 

Thesemindz

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Generally speaking, I would probably agree with your assesment of awarding a probationary belt before a test. The one point I might make though, is that it is not uncommon to award "recommended" ranks. For instance, many schools have a recommended brown belt, or a recommended black belt. Sometimes this is a green or brown belt with a black stripe running long down the center. This practice is common in many TKD schools where they award red/black belts for "recommended" black belts. This only means the student is getting ready to test, but has not yet and is still in the preparation phase. Perhaps asking this question in the TKD forum would yield more results? Perhaps if the instructor in question had framed the ranking differently it would have caused less friction. I don't know any of the involved parties, but maybe this is more a case of good intentions conflicting with bad communication. I try not to attribute to malevolance what can be explained away by ignorance.


-Rob
 

Old Fat Kenpoka

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Ralph Castro has a probationary Black Belt.

In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there is a "Fighter" Black Belt rank and an "Instructor" Black Belt. Most of us are familiar with the Instructor rank -- a Black Belt with a Red Bar on one side. As additional Black Belt degrees are earned, BJJ Black Belts add white stripes to their Red Bar. The Fighter rank is rarely used. Fighter rank is designated by a White Bar instead of the Red Bar. The Fighter Rank is a good way to keep new Black Belts from jumping ship and opening their own school. New Black Belts leaving to open their own school is still a problem in BJJ...in Kenpo it seems this doesn't usually happen until after 3rd Black...
 

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BAsically here in the UK within our orgaisation the BKKU we do have a probationary black belt (Shodan Ho) and I feel it serves two great purposes.

1. All those people who actually have an aoim of receiving a black belt and go no further will get a black belt say goodbye to them and they are not entered onto the family tree, so their personal goals are met however they havbe not realised that there is much more to be a dan grade than just the black belt.

2. We have a minimum two year gap between Black Belt (Shodan Ho) and Dan grade which is time used to assist in teaching spreading their knowledge and also to consolidate all that they know so that when they do eventually take there Dan grade they prepared for the gruelling task ahead.

OUr dan grades are tested individually through a 5 to 7 hour grading where they are tested on forms sets techniques (all of them from yellow up including extensions) as well as breaking down forms and providing interpretations etc.

So personally I am all for the probationary black belt.
 
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Satori

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I've never seen a school that had a "Probationary" Black Belt. I've seen Junior Black Belts, and "Honorary Black Belts" for students with a high ranking in another style that switched (in this scenario, the students still had to learn ALL the required techniques and test...they were just allowed to keep wearing their rank).

One reason I can understand a "Pre Black Belt" w/o a test is, essentially, as a review of the students character.

I don't have much experience with American Kenpo, but it sounds like black belts are afforded a deal of "special treatment" by non-black belts. In traditional Karate, black belt STUDENTS are treated no different than other students...if anything, the instructor is more harsh, unrelenting, and demanding (and at times belittling if the black belt demonstrates the wrong attitude). This tends to "keep them in check" and to restrain attitudes and ego-tism.

Perhaps by giving the "Soon to be Black Belt" the rank before they actually test for it, the instructor is essentially giving the student enough rope to hang themselves with. They are afforded the rights of the rank, saluted, etc... all with the intention of showing the instructor how the student will handle wearing a black belt.

This could be another test...a test of moral character and humility. Perhaps if the student behaves poorly, then after a grueling test the student is NOT awarded the rank and is told to figure out why they didn't pass (assuming their techniques were perfect, this would be a chance for some intense introspection).

Just an observation, as I personally don't think the color worn is important, as it only serves as a visual indication of a skill level that should be easily experienced and understood.

May you achieve
Satori
 
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