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tkdroamer

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My Master just called it a block.

We never really drew application from the forms in either of our classes. Typical class is:
  • Punching drills in formation
  • Kicking drills in formation
  • Pad work
  • Forms
  • Jump kicks
  • Sparring
  • Self-defense (with application)
Punching drills never really went anywhere, since we can't punch in sparring. Forms are their own thing. A lot of the kicking stuff led to sparring. Self-defense is its own thing.
This may explain a lot. That is a Lot to put into one class, so I suspect all you ever did was brush on the high spots. No wonder you have so many questions. From what I have read, you were in a hybrid WT school. But possibly it was lacking in true depth.
 

JowGaWolf

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Do you intend to break away from this restriction?
I want to know this as well. Will he continue to teach as he was taught or will he decide to explore and develop the training beyond what he was taught. I remember there was a TKD person on here whose teacher left the responsibility of the school to him. He would ask the group questions because he was trying to develop parts of the system. Then he would spar using the techniques that he was trying to develop.
 
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Do you intend to break away from this restriction?

I want to know this as well. Will he continue to teach as he was taught or will he decide to explore and develop the training beyond what he was taught. I remember there was a TKD person on here whose teacher left the responsibility of the school to him. He would ask the group questions because he was trying to develop parts of the system. Then he would spar using the techniques that he was trying to develop.
No, I don't. It's not about "developing beyond what I was taught". I am doing that in other ways. For example, right now I am learning BJJ, and I do plan to have that factor in to my self-defense portion of the curriculum at upper belts. I don't plan to teach groundfighting exactly as it is taught in BJJ, because my focus will be on getting back to the feet.

One of the reasons I like Taekwondo is that (as I mention in another thread) it is very risk-averse compared to other striking arts, while still maintaining an element of sparring. I believe that most styles of Karate are the same way. Because we're not repeatedly bludgeoning each other in the head, the risk of concussion and therefore permanent brain damage is significantly reduced. I know some people consider it a worthy risk in order to get more realistic training in, but I do not. If you're more at risk in the art than you are in the street, then the preparation doesn't make much sense to me.

You wouldn't criticize a boxing coach for not adding kicks to his curriculum, so it's kind of weird to criticize a TKD instructor for not putting more emphasis on punches in sparring.
 
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This may explain a lot. That is a Lot to put into one class, so I suspect all you ever did was brush on the high spots. No wonder you have so many questions. From what I have read, you were in a hybrid WT school. But possibly it was lacking in true depth.
When you do a lot of the above as rote, yes it's hard to get into depth. But if it's not rote, then you have the opportunity to add it in, even without spending too much time in any one area in each class.

The counterpoint is that if you instead were to concentrate the classes, you miss out on breadth. Students might have better forms if you cut out self-defense, but then they wouldn't have self-defense.

I've gone a complete 180 in BJJ class. Warmup, 1-2 techniques, positional rolling, live rolling. Each week focuses on a different position, and we may or may not see the same technique again. Contrast this with TKD. At the white belt level in my old school, every class would have 90% or more of the curriculum for yellow belt. You practiced it every day, and it made it easy on testing day to know what you needed.

I feel we never switched from that style of training to a more in-depth approach in TKD. I feel we skipped over it entirely in BJJ. (I know some schools will have a more focused curriculum for your first stripe or even up to blue belt). I don't feel the reason we lacked depth at my old school was because of the pacing of the class, but rather the fact that even at a high level, class was probably 60% rote material. That only leaves 40% for instructors to be focused or dynamic. And, if you don't have to hit a bunch of rote material to prepare for the test, then you have more opportunity to spend more time on something if you feel it's needed.
 

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What do your fellow TKD instructors think about the technique that you say is only a block?
Most of us disagree.
It's not about "developing beyond what I was taught".
Some would say that this is exactly what martial arts are about.
You wouldn't criticize a boxing coach for not adding kicks to his curriculum, so it's kind of weird to criticize a TKD instructor for not putting more emphasis on punches in sparring.
Boxing does not including kicking. TKD, on the other hand (see what I did there) absolutely does include punching.
 
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Most of us disagree.
Do you have data to support that?
Some would say that this is exactly what martial arts are about.
Purposefully ignoring the next sentence where I say, "I am doing that in other ways." I was responding to the idea that in order to develop beyond what I was taught, I must add punches to my sparring. Put in the context, and your point doesn't really make much sense.
Boxing does not including kicking. TKD, on the other hand (see what I did there) absolutely does include punching.
I will refer to this thread: WTF Sparring: why it is the way that it is.

It was considered a good enough write-up to sticky it. While yes, Taekwondo has punching, Taekwondo sparring (specifically WT sparring) encourages use of kicking, as kicks are more difficult to land than punches.

Taekwondo includes a lot of things that aren't present in sparring. Joint locks, throws, submission techniques. Many schools include weapons and defense against weapons. But that doesn't show up in the sport of Taekwondo sparring.
 

JowGaWolf

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Because we're not repeatedly bludgeoning each other in the head, the risk of concussion and therefore permanent brain damage is significantly reduced. I know some people consider it a worthy risk in order to get more realistic training in, but I do not. If you're more at risk in the art than you are in the street, then the preparation doesn't make much sense to me.
You can always set rules on how hard contact should be. This should make it possible to punch and kick at the head and lowering the risk of damage. My rule for punching at the head was that students had to be good enough to defend their heads. My over all belief is that if a student can't stop the slow punches from reaching their heads then they won't be able to stop the fast ones from reaching. Ultimately I want to see a lot of punches fall on the guard.

While getting hit in the head and suffering damage from punches to the head is a risk. If a person is actually going to be trying to defend themselves in real life, then getting use to defending the head is going to be vital. When people get into street fights it's all about head shots and take downs. If a person has no experience in defending their heads then they are at risk of suffering greater damage to the head in a real fight where people are punching and kicking their hardest. The biggest benefit of dealing with strikes to the head is that the student will learn what the incoming strikes to the head will look like. This can be done in a safe manner. Not so much with kids but definitely with teens and adults.

In general if the punches come in so hard that one is worried that the punch to face will hurt, then those two are probably sparring too hard.

You wouldn't criticize a boxing coach for not adding kicks to his curriculum, so it's kind of weird to criticize a TKD instructor for not putting more emphasis on punches in sparring.
I don't criticize TKD for adding emphasis on punches in sparring because punches are part of the TKD system and I've seen TKD schools do just that. When a students gets KO from a punch that rips through his or her chest protector, then it's clear someone trains punches whith an emphasis. I'm more surprised that there are some TKD schools who don't practice punching, because it's clear that punching is part of the system.







Just from the little conversation that we had so far. I think your definition on TKD is more limited than what most people accept as TKD. My guess is that your view of what is TKD may eventually become problematic if you were to have discussions with other TKD practitioners

Even in this old TKD video. There is a lot of striking. If you take a close look at the hands in this video you can see that the knuckle is large from the punching he has been doing. I will be watching this one as soon as I get some COD play in. There are clearly a large range of hand strikes in TKD.
 

tkdroamer

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You can always set rules on how hard contact should be. This should make it possible to punch and kick at the head and lowering the risk of damage. My rule for punching at the head was that students had to be good enough to defend their heads. My over all belief is that if a student can't stop the slow punches from reaching their heads then they won't be able to stop the fast ones from reaching. Ultimately I want to see a lot of punches fall on the guard.

While getting hit in the head and suffering damage from punches to the head is a risk. If a person is actually going to be trying to defend themselves in real life, then getting use to defending the head is going to be vital. When people get into street fights it's all about head shots and take downs. If a person has no experience in defending their heads then they are at risk of suffering greater damage to the head in a real fight where people are punching and kicking their hardest. The biggest benefit of dealing with strikes to the head is that the student will learn what the incoming strikes to the head will look like. This can be done in a safe manner. Not so much with kids but definitely with teens and adults.

In general if the punches come in so hard that one is worried that the punch to face will hurt, then those two are probably sparring too hard.


I don't criticize TKD for adding emphasis on punches in sparring because punches are part of the TKD system and I've seen TKD schools do just that. When a students gets KO from a punch that rips through his or her chest protector, then it's clear someone trains punches whith an emphasis. I'm more surprised that there are some TKD schools who don't practice punching, because it's clear that punching is part of the system.







Just from the little conversation that we had so far. I think your definition on TKD is more limited than what most people accept as TKD. My guess is that your view of what is TKD may eventually become problematic if you were to have discussions with other TKD practitioners

Even in this old TKD video. There is a lot of striking. If you take a close look at the hands in this video you can see that the knuckle is large from the punching he has been doing. I will be watching this one as soon as I get some COD play in. There are clearly a large range of hand strikes in TKD.
I have had two TKO's with body shots during competition. They were of course wearing a hogu. I doubt it would be allowed nowadays but I am not certain.
The same targets apply with or without the hogu. Either a sternum shot or a rib shot. The target area on a hogu is pretty large and most times I see people just thinking about slipping the block instead of making hard contact.
 

Earl Weiss

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Even in this old TKD video. There is a lot of striking. If you take a close look at the hands in this video you can see that the knuckle is large from the punching he has been doing. I will be watching this one as soon as I get some COD play in. There are clearly a large range of hand strikes in TKD.
Because that Video is from General Choi's system. While perhaps not entirely accurate a common comment was that the system had 2000 hand / arm techniques and 1200 foot / leg techniques. It always allowed punching to the head in sparring. . It was that other system coming some 10 years later that did not allow punches to the head in sparring.
 

tkdroamer

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You can always set rules on how hard contact should be. This should make it possible to punch and kick at the head and lowering the risk of damage. My rule for punching at the head was that students had to be good enough to defend their heads. My over all belief is that if a student can't stop the slow punches from reaching their heads then they won't be able to stop the fast ones from reaching. Ultimately I want to see a lot of punches fall on the guard.

While getting hit in the head and suffering damage from punches to the head is a risk. If a person is actually going to be trying to defend themselves in real life, then getting use to defending the head is going to be vital. When people get into street fights it's all about head shots and take downs. If a person has no experience in defending their heads then they are at risk of suffering greater damage to the head in a real fight where people are punching and kicking their hardest. The biggest benefit of dealing with strikes to the head is that the student will learn what the incoming strikes to the head will look like. This can be done in a safe manner. Not so much with kids but definitely with teens and adults.

In general if the punches come in so hard that one is worried that the punch to face will hurt, then those two are probably sparring too hard.


I don't criticize TKD for adding emphasis on punches in sparring because punches are part of the TKD system and I've seen TKD schools do just that. When a students gets KO from a punch that rips through his or her chest protector, then it's clear someone trains punches whith an emphasis. I'm more surprised that there are some TKD schools who don't practice punching, because it's clear that punching is part of the system.







Just from the little conversation that we had so far. I think your definition on TKD is more limited than what most people accept as TKD. My guess is that your view of what is TKD may eventually become problematic if you were to have discussions with other TKD practitioners

Even in this old TKD video. There is a lot of striking. If you take a close look at the hands in this video you can see that the knuckle is large from the punching he has been doing. I will be watching this one as soon as I get some COD play in. There are clearly a large range of hand strikes in TKD.
I love the top video. Any way to determine what year(s) or decade it was from?
 
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You can always set rules on how hard contact should be. This should make it possible to punch and kick at the head and lowering the risk of damage. My rule for punching at the head was that students had to be good enough to defend their heads. My over all belief is that if a student can't stop the slow punches from reaching their heads then they won't be able to stop the fast ones from reaching. Ultimately I want to see a lot of punches fall on the guard.

While getting hit in the head and suffering damage from punches to the head is a risk. If a person is actually going to be trying to defend themselves in real life, then getting use to defending the head is going to be vital. When people get into street fights it's all about head shots and take downs. If a person has no experience in defending their heads then they are at risk of suffering greater damage to the head in a real fight where people are punching and kicking their hardest. The biggest benefit of dealing with strikes to the head is that the student will learn what the incoming strikes to the head will look like. This can be done in a safe manner. Not so much with kids but definitely with teens and adults.

In general if the punches come in so hard that one is worried that the punch to face will hurt, then those two are probably sparring too hard.


I don't criticize TKD for adding emphasis on punches in sparring because punches are part of the TKD system and I've seen TKD schools do just that. When a students gets KO from a punch that rips through his or her chest protector, then it's clear someone trains punches whith an emphasis. I'm more surprised that there are some TKD schools who don't practice punching, because it's clear that punching is part of the system.







Just from the little conversation that we had so far. I think your definition on TKD is more limited than what most people accept as TKD. My guess is that your view of what is TKD may eventually become problematic if you were to have discussions with other TKD practitioners

Even in this old TKD video. There is a lot of striking. If you take a close look at the hands in this video you can see that the knuckle is large from the punching he has been doing. I will be watching this one as soon as I get some COD play in. There are clearly a large range of hand strikes in TKD.
As has been mentioned - there are different lineages of Taekwondo with different styles of sparring. A roughly equivalent comparison would be the rules of boxing and the rules of kickboxing. Both are "boxing" in a sense, but one is much more specialized than the other.

Punches exist in some styles of Taekwondo sparring, but not all of them. The two most prominent Taekwondo organizations do not allow knockout punches to the head. KKW/WT (the official version of TKD as far as South Korea is concerned, and the style in the Olympics) does not allow punches to the head at all in sparring. ITF (the original version of a unified TKD) places limitations on punches. You cannot punch more than three times in rapid succession. You cannot win by KO - if you cause your opponent an injury that prevents them from continuing due to heavy contact, then you are disqualified.

Don't presume to lecture me about something you've seen a few videos about when I've trained and taught it for years.
 

JowGaWolf

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Don't presume to lecture me about something you've seen a few videos about when I've trained and taught it for years.
Stop taking what other's are saying about TKD so personal. I wasn't lecturing you. I'm just showing you what I'm seeing and what I'm looking at. Same as below.

These are your words "We never really drew application from the forms in either of our classes. This is why your perception of techniques is so limited. My experience and the experience of others fit this statement "We always drew application from the forms in our classes." Other practitioners also experienced "We were required to dig deeper into a technique to come up with additional applications for that technique."

The one thing I've seen through conversations with you and others is that when you talk about TKD, you don't talk about TKD as a whole. You only focus on TKD as you were taught and nothing else exists beyond that. As much as I think you would enjoy TKD more if you dig deeper into your current knowledge, I understand that is your choice and it may be just who you are as a person. Not everyone likes to dig deeper into things.
 

JowGaWolf

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A roughly equivalent comparison would be the rules of boxing and the rules of kickboxing. Both are "boxing" in a sense, but one is much more specialized than the other.
Those are 2 different fighting systems. What other system are you comparing with TKD?
 

JowGaWolf

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@skribs

One thing that may make your life easier is to simply specify "In my lineage system..." then don't apply lineage specific things as the only answer. So when someone says that in TKD a "block is strike." then just know that they are speaking of a wider range of TKD than what you are looking at. It doesn't mean that that they are incorrect it also doesn't mean that you are incorrect. It just means that they are speaking of a larger context than lineage specific teachings. This is the only way I can see you not having a headache with this.

If you try to apply lineage specific training as the "Only application." for a technique then you are going to run into problems. In your case "Only application for a technique" vs "Lineage application for a technique"

Just say that you are speaking of a Lineage application for a technique. It truly will save you the headache and fewer people will get into a lengthy debate with you about applications. If you just say "Technique A is only a block" then you'll run into a nightmare as other TKD lineages have the same technique, but it is taught as having multiple applications.
 

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Taekwondo includes a lot of things that aren't present in sparring. Joint locks, throws, submission techniques. Many schools include weapons and defense against weapons. But that doesn't show up in the sport of Taekwondo sparring.
This is what happens when the sport aspect of an MA is overstressed. Techniques not allowed or given high point value tend to start to fall by the wayside. Over the years this can, and has, resulted in these techniques being lost to the curriculum, or at least put on the back burner of real practice. Sport has its benefits, but focusing too much on it can have a negative impact on the pure, original form of the art. IMO, the sport version gives some good, simulated combat, but it can also lessen the SD application. I'm fine with sport karate/TKD, but one must make sure not to mistake that for the actual skill set of the art. It's just sport, a single slice of the TMA pie.
In general if the punches come in so hard that one is worried that the punch to face will hurt, then those two are probably sparring too hard.
From the time I stated sparring as a purple belt and competing as a green belt (below brown) the head was always a valid target. Back in those days there was no headgear, nor did we use gloves of any kind. Yet, there were few times someone got really nailed in the face. "Why," may you ask? Because we were taught to control our strikes.

This is different than pulling our punches or punching softly. The punches had effective power, it was just focused to a point an inch or two in front of the target with the arm not fully extended (thus showing the strike did not fall short and was capable of landing with effective power). This was "non-contact" point karate sparring, though in reality "kiss-contact" was allowed and from time to time they were hard kisses indeed. Often enough to remind all the power of our art, but not so often that it was as dangerous as many high school sports.

I was able to focus strong power and snap the opponent's gi, and even to their eyebrows (if they were a little bushy.) I think this control skill is not often stressed these days. It's important to understand that the same skill that allows to focus a strike one inch in front of the opponent's face is the same skill that allows the power to be focused one inch behind the opponent's face. :blackeye:
My experience and the experience of others fit this statement "We always drew application from the forms in our classes."
I'd venture to say somewhere in between "never" and "always" is the norm in the majority of schools. To a large extent, this was because the instructor didn't know the true application, for one of two reasons, I think. First, the first generation of Western blackbelts taught in the Orient weren't there long enough to learn them (or the Master just didn't care to teach them (The soldiers were happy enough to just block, kick and punch and bang on each other.) And second, as described in the quote above, the sport realm didn't employ them and they fell by the wayside since many of the form applications aren't allowed in competition for safety's sake.

Some think that the application of many form techniques is not realistic or practical in SD. I disagree. If you understand what the move(s) actually do, the effectiveness can be seen and experienced. I will admit, I can't figure out a few of them, but for the most part, forms are a good source of usable combat knowledge.

This is less of a problem in CMA, I'd guess, than JMA, since it has not gone thru as many filters. The original Okinawan form's techniques and combat techniques were one and the same. Over the years they disassociated from each other into two separate areas of practice. I'm all for rejoining them in class starting at the intermediate level. No need to wait for black belt to get to the juicy stuff.
 

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At my most recent Taekwondo school, there was a lot that you would have to remember. There was so much rote content in each belt, that you would brain dump some of the information every new belt color. It got even worse when he started adding in the Taegeuks.

In discussing this in another thread, I brought up that I was the only person at my dojang capable of retaining the entire curriculum (aside from the Master and his wife). I didn't brain dump, so I was able to keep up with training. During my time as an instructor, we had around a dozen other students get their third dan. Half of them immediately quit to move on to other things (like college or other sports). The other half stayed for a while. All but one of those that stayed had a strong call to a leadership role. But, none of those were able to retain the colored belt curriculum. Most were struggling just to keep up with ours.

In fact, even the Master struggled with the 3rd Dan curriculum. He taught the colored belt stuff and even the 1st Dan stuff every day for over a decade, so it was firmly ingrained in his memory. He'd have a mistake here or there, but 99% of the time he was rock solid with the beginner levels. By the time I got my 3rd Dan, he had trouble showing me the rote material in a consistent manner, which made it difficult in turn for me to learn.

I've always been quick to pick up on curriculum. I also took very detailed notes after every class (even as a white belt) to make it easier to remember. I'm not sure how much of my success in learning the curriculum was due to my natural talent for it, my dedication to my notes, or simply the fact that I continued to practice what everyone else brain-dumped, and then reinforced when I started teaching. But it's got me wondering what is reasonable to expect a person to be able to memorize when it comes to Taekwondo. This question comes in a few forms:

  1. How much rote material should you expect someone to be able to retain, after which most people will not be able to keep up?
  2. How important is rote material to Taekwondo? Should someone "peak" in their career because they've reached their limit on how many forms and combinations they can commit to memory, or should their technique and ability to teach technique and application be a bigger factor in promotion?
  3. How much of rote memorization is up to natural talent, and how much is able to be practiced? In other words, if someone can't memorize something, is the answer that they need to keep working at it, or that they've reached their limit?
  4. How much of rote memorization can be taught? In other words, is it a flaw in my Master's teaching that people did not retain the colored belt curriculum and struggled to keep up at 3rd Dan, or is that just the nature of the beast?
For reference, our curriculum had a total of 30+ rote combinations, 20+ forms, and 90+ self-defense combinations in the colored belts. At most you would need 5 forms and 25 self-defense at any one test, but an instructor would need to know them all. To get your 4th Dan, you were pushing 60+ combinations, 15+ forms, and 60+ self-defense combinations. To be an instructor, you would need to know both sets of combos, forms, and self-defense. (Even more if you also take Hapkido).
Going back to the initial post, is the question/discussion about memorization and the role it plays in learning? Or is it more about how much material is realistic in a formalized curriculum?

To the first, memorization definitely takes a part in the learning process, but simply regurgitating set combinations is not the end goal of learning martial arts.

To the second, it is definitely possible for a curriculum to become so large as to be bulky and cumbersome, making it impossible to train any of it consistently enough to develop real skill with it. When your training becomes nothing but a scramble to do everything only once or twice and that takes all of the time that you have because the curriculum list is near endless, it has probably become too big. What is too big for one person may well be manageable to another. But I think curriculum becomes big because people always want more, and they fail to consider what does NOT belong, or what becomes unrealistic. There is something to be said about getting more mileage from less formal material. It can be freeing, if you come from a cumbersome system.

I have trained in a system or two that had very large curriculum, and I had to recognize that it was a poor choice for me, I was better off training something else.
 
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Going back to the initial post, is the question/discussion about memorization and the role it plays in learning? Or is it more about how much material is realistic in a formalized curriculum?

To the first, memorization definitely takes a part in the learning process, but simply regurgitating set combinations is not the end goal of learning martial arts.

To the second, it is definitely possible for a curriculum to become so large as to be bulky and cumbersome, making it impossible to train any of it consistently enough to develop real skill with it. When your training becomes nothing but a scramble to do everything only once or twice and that takes all of the time that you have because the curriculum list is near endless, it has probably become too big. What is too big for one person may well be manageable to another. But I think curriculum becomes big because people always want more, and they fail to consider what does NOT belong, or what becomes unrealistic. There is something to be said about getting more mileage from less formal material. It can be freeing, if you come from a cumbersome system.

I have trained in a system or two that had very large curriculum, and I had to recognize that it was a poor choice for me, I was better off training something else.
It's about how much material is realistic. But also, if it's possible to increase that number. Let me see if I can reword my questions to maybe make a little bit more sense:

  1. What is a realistic amount of material to keep in a curriculum?
  2. If you have rote combinations like Kicking #1-5, and you have students that forget which ones are #3 and #4, but they can do the techniques brilliantly, should their lack of memorization hold them back, or should their technique push them forward?
  3. Let's say it's realistic to memorize 20 forms and 50 one-steps. If someone is struggling to retain 15 forms and 40 one-steps, is it a matter of time before they can reach 20+50, or is this the most they'll ever learn?
  4. In the above example, is it possible to teach people to increase their limit from 15+40 to 20+50, or is it just a matter of repetition?

This thread was aimed at entertaining the idea of going with a curriculum similar to my former Master, in which I would have a large amount of rote memorized techniques. However, since I posted this thread, I've gotten more experience in BJJ (which is 0 rote memorization of curriculum) and had a conversation in another thread which also changed my mind on my approach.

My plan now is to have a specific, non-rote curriculum for the beginner belts (instructors should memorize the way things are done, but students don't need to memorize which kick is #3, for example), and more of a dynamic curriculum that's based on the specific instructor's experience and whims. I plan to design the tests more as a way to allow students to show off their creativity in addition to their technique, instead of to test them on memorization. (Except for forms, which will cover the memorization test).

For example, instead of having them demonstrate "Punch Defense #1-5", I could have them pick a self-defense they liked from class, make it their own, and that is what they will present on testing day. It would mean so much more I think for each student to demonstrate their own signature move, than for everyone to parrot the same one.
 

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It's about how much material is realistic. But also, if it's possible to increase that number. Let me see if I can reword my questions to maybe make a little bit more sense:

  1. What is a realistic amount of material to keep in a curriculum?
  2. If you have rote combinations like Kicking #1-5, and you have students that forget which ones are #3 and #4, but they can do the techniques brilliantly, should their lack of memorization hold them back, or should their technique push them forward?
  3. Let's say it's realistic to memorize 20 forms and 50 one-steps. If someone is struggling to retain 15 forms and 40 one-steps, is it a matter of time before they can reach 20+50, or is this the most they'll ever learn?
  4. In the above example, is it possible to teach people to increase their limit from 15+40 to 20+50, or is it just a matter of repetition?

This thread was aimed at entertaining the idea of going with a curriculum similar to my former Master, in which I would have a large amount of rote memorized techniques. However, since I posted this thread, I've gotten more experience in BJJ (which is 0 rote memorization of curriculum) and had a conversation in another thread which also changed my mind on my approach.

My plan now is to have a specific, non-rote curriculum for the beginner belts (instructors should memorize the way things are done, but students don't need to memorize which kick is #3, for example), and more of a dynamic curriculum that's based on the specific instructor's experience and whims. I plan to design the tests more as a way to allow students to show off their creativity in addition to their technique, instead of to test them on memorization. (Except for forms, which will cover the memorization test).

For example, instead of having them demonstrate "Punch Defense #1-5", I could have them pick a self-defense they liked from class, make it their own, and that is what they will present on testing day. It would mean so much more I think for each student to demonstrate their own signature move, than for everyone to parrot the same one.
Gotcha.

The system I train and teach now is very different from the heavy curriculum methods I trained in the past. I would say that the only fixed curriculum are the forms, and there are a fair number of them and they are lengthy, but by no means should anyone believe that they need them all. They most certainly do not, and dont really need ANY of them, but I find them interesting and useful. I have learned perhaps half of the forms that the system contains.

The system is really built upon a few concepts that are designed to help you develop powerful strikes. Once you understand the concepts and can engage them with some competency, then it is pretty loose in terms of how you go about that. Most of the drills and patterns that I practice, I came up with myself. I teach them to my students because I believe they are useful and functional, but I make it clear that none of it is sacred. Once they reach a level of functional competence, they are free to use their own insight and ideas to develop their own drills, while they are welcome, but not required, to keep practicing those that I have taught them.

We dont use belts and dont have formal tests of that nature, but I would never test them on do punching combo number 8, while stepping forward. Instead, in class or a training session, I say, ok, lets work our punches while stepping forward. How about we start with THIS punch. Ok, now do THAT punch. Ok now do a combo of those two. Now add this third one but none of these combos are carved into stone.

And we work partner combinations so that students understand how to put it into use. Really, that is the meat of the system and forms are not required to gain that skill, although they add an element of challenge to the training and they develop ones vision for what is possible, so like I said, I like them and find them useful. But necessary? No. Required? No.

Understanding how the concepts and principles drive powerful technique, and understanding how you can use those techniques, is what matters, and a heavily formalized curriculum is not needed for that.

At least this is my experience, having done both. So maybe my insight might be useful for you.

I will say that I think it can be helpful for a beginner student to have a limited let of material that has specific defensive applications. It gives them some very concrete examples when they have not yet developed a vision for what is possible. But the danger is in growing that material into something that becomes too big and cumbersome. It needs to remain limited, a crutch for the beginners, but the beginners need to grow up and throw the crutch away, walk by themselves.
 
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skribs

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We dont use belts and dont have formal tests of that nature, but I would never test them on do punching combo number 8, while stepping forward.
In the curriculum I'm talking about, the steps are part of the memorized combo as well. For example, one combination is jab-reverse, step forward, reverse punch.
 

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