Ready for Black Belt - A different perspective

Gemini

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I've read a number of threads asking opinions on when people are ready to test for a black belt, but recently something happened and I wanted to get some opinions on it.

One of my sons was put into TKD for PT reasons only. He has mild CP and we knew that he would never be a true MAist by the normally accepted use of the term. Belt levels in his instance were not relevant to anything. That was almost 6 years ago. Though he had long since fulfilled all the normal requirements for testing, and made huge gains in physical ability (he has no mental handicap), I wouldn't allow him to test. This was because, though I don't consider physical requirements to be very high on the priority list (we can't all be Bruce Lee), I do consider them to be somewhere on the list. More importantly though, it had more to do with his attitude. It was was flat. He was there because I made him. Period. Bottom line, he simply wasn't what I considered to be a viable candidate for a black belt. He wanted it, but I told him if he couldn't "represent", it wasn't going to happen.

So last month, it's time to test again (we hold this once or twice a year). My Sabumnim says he wants my son to test. I said no way. My wife joins the act, and long story short, I get out-gunned and (VERY) reluctanly consent. My Sabumnim's reason was because my son needed to "evolve" so to speak. There was nothing left for him as a colored belt. If I didn't allow him to take the step forward, his skills that he had spent so many years increasing would begin to deminish. He understood my concern about my son being a poor example of a black belt, but said he can no longer be a colored belt either.

The day of the test comes and all the candidates (including my son) do what they have to do. After several breaks, they finally get to the last one and my son can't do it. It's 3 half inch boards with a hand strike. The test goes an additional 40 minutes while my son repeatedly hits these boards. It's what happened at that time and since that my Sabunmin has once again proven why he's the master and I'm the student. My son, who cries at the drop of a hat, must have hit these boards 80 times. His right hand and wrist (he can't use his left) are raw, and he refuses to quit. He also refuses to cry. The look of determination on his face is one I've never seen on him before. Me, being the one conducting the test, am DYING and I can't do anything to help and his mother, (the stone) is quietly balling her eyes out in the corner. Finally, SNAP!. The place explodes and my son gets his belt.

Since that time, he has increased his efforts in everything (inside and outside of class), tries with double the effort, and can't wait to go to class again. My sabumnim (as so many times before) has apparently proved me wrong again.

So after this lengthy write up, my question. What do you think of promoting not from a standpoint of ability, but more of a standpoint of future promise.

Yes, because he's gone as far as he could as a colored belt and needed this to happen for the benefit of his future physical and mental growth...
OR
No, because no one who can't at lease on a very basic level defend themselves should be made a black belt.

Your thoughts, please.
 

jfarnsworth

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I have often thought the martial arts were about one's ability to teach, learn, pass on knowledge and various others. The fact is that his physical handicap can be over run by his attitude and willingness to learn. I have always said that if someone fails due to a breaking issue :idunno: :rolleyes: isn't about the arts. I hope this doesn't get into a heated discussion again but if you don't break you don't pass is ridiculous. If I can demonstrate all the requirements to the best of my ability, have good attitude, train hard, etc. why should one fail because of a board break? Also, if someone has a physical handicap and can demonstrate to the best of their ability to everyone that they deserve to wear the belt then they should.
 

shesulsa

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That boy should wear his black belt around his chest, because his heart is in that belt. He had a crossroads at that test. He's persevered through your insistance that he train, your reluctance to promote and your doubt of his abilities. He had MORE to overcome for that test than most others can imagine.

With all due respect, perhaps it's time you re-examine your testing criteria and your definition of black belt and the purpose of promotion. Sounds to me like he earned his.
 

The Kai

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Black Belt is a turning point. I've seen some test and reamain on the courser that they were on. some go from being a great brown belt to a lackluster black belt, some go from a unremarkable brown belt to a benchmark black belt. Black belt is a symbol, an standard, and it is also a validation for the student.


i'm glad your son passed
 
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Gemini

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shesulsa said:
That boy should wear his black belt around his chest, because his heart is in that belt. He had a crossroads at that test. He's persevered through your insistance that he train, your reluctance to promote and your doubt of his abilities. He had MORE to overcome for that test than most others can imagine.

With all due respect, perhaps it's time you re-examine your testing criteria and your definition of black belt and the purpose of promotion. Sounds to me like he earned his.
Thank you, Shesulsa. I think you're right, which is exactly the reason why I asked the question, and it wasn't easy. Please understand, it's my own desire to learn that attracted me to this board in the first place. If I posted: hey, my 9 year old son got his black belt even though he can't do anything very well, most places would have been screaming McDojang. There's so much more to the issue than that. That's why I posted it here and not anywhere else. I hate the generic label, and my school is far from it.

jfarnsworth - I should have clarified a little better. If he would have not broken the board, he still would have passed the test. Normally, a student will be stopped long before that. It's all in their face. If a student shows despair, it stops. It becomes self defeating at that point. He never had that look and it was his decision to continue. I think watching it was as hard on the Sabumnim. When he started training him, he was 4 years old, 22 lbs, couldn't stand on one leg and wore braces on both legs.

Kai, it was my own lack of confidence in, not his ability, but his attitude that worried me. as you said, I've seen students turn for the worse after BB. I really didn't want him to be one of them but didn't know. I have never been so glad to be proven wrong. Oh and Thank you.
 

shesulsa

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Gemini said:
Thank you, Shesulsa. I think you're right, which is exactly the reason why I asked the question, and it wasn't easy. Please understand, it's my own desire to learn that attracted me to this board in the first place. If I posted: hey, my 9 year old son got his black belt even though he can't do anything very well, most places would have been screaming McDojang. There's so much more to the issue than that. That's why I posted it here and not anywhere else. I hate the generic label, and my school is far from it.
I think you know my son is autistic and I think he has CP (never diagnosed, but all the physical signs of mild CP) but the developmental disability proves teaching him difficult and I've learned with him to keep an open mind as to where he can go and how far he can progress. I'm no fool - I know what his limitations are right now and where it looks like he's going - but I'm not going to limit possiblity with my mind.

I have more to post on this but I have to go for now. But I wanted you to know I think it took guts to post this and I agree - MT is different than other boards and I wouldn't mod anywhere else.:asian:
 
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Satori

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I'm a grown man reading this at work, and I got so choked up I almost had to excuse myself from my desk.

Congratulations! That boy definately has a Black Belt spirit.

May you achieve
Satori
 

karatekid1975

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OMG!!! This was the best post I seen in a while, Gemini. I give your son a lot of credit. Reading this also gave me inspiration. I am about to test for BB in November and the thought crossed my mind, "Don't do it .... chicken out ...." The way you were hard on your son, I'm the same with myself. I have the physical ability, but not mentally. I'm not mentally handicaped or anything, but I was very timid, no self esteem, ect as a kid (I also had the "green belt ego" for my ablilty to learn the physical stuff quickly with good technique :rolleyes: But my instructor deflated that ego real fast LOL). I still am to a point. But now I know I have to do this, even if I don't pass, just to know that I did try. Chickening out isn't an option anymore. Tell your son I said thanks ;)
 
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Gemini

Gemini

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karatekid1975 said:
Chickening out isn't an option anymore. Tell your son I said thanks ;)
I will. He'll look at me like I have three heads, but I will.

Good luck on your test and let us know how you do.

Regards,
 

terryl965

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gemini, that was one of the best storys ever told here at MT, I'm so glad your son finished what he started and it is a tribute to you and your instructor for making him be one together.
 
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Gemini

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Thank you, Terry. Reading that just put a lump in my throat. That means alot that you would think so.
 

TigerWoman

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I can understand your reluctance to have your son test. I keep going back and forth on this issue. For one, I agree that your son reached a crossroads, dug something deep out of him and scaled the mountain. He truly is a black belt. But I have seen others that just expect to get it no matter what they put into it and they too go through the black belt test but are not really "tested". The test is actually made easier for them instead.

Each student has his/her own mountain to climb, the work to achieve a certain standard. I believe your son achieved that standard. Just a side note though, in our school we are allowed 4 break tries. But we can also try at the end of a future class if that is not attained during testing. Still 4 tries though. Most of the time, the breaking is really the "breaking point".

But another breaking point has arisen in our school. There are those presently who failed a slow motion front kick to the solar plexus and are still working at it. There are others who have failed one thing or another...quite a few black belts sitting on the master's desk. Then there are others that have slid right by with atrocious form and are "teachers" now. sigh! I have a friend who failed to do 25 head to the floor...and completely up.. standard pushups on the toes. She will get there, but what if she couldn't? There's one asthmatic woman who didn't do any and never trained for it. ??? Well for our school, "standards" seem to be different for everyone. Some are granted an easier time, but most have to toe the line even though THAT line was recently set back considerably after my last test.

I think there must be standards or the term "black belt" will mean nothing.
I'm glad your son made it. TW
 

arnisador

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Satori said:
Congratulations! That boy definately has a Black Belt spirit.
Yes, full marks! Congratulations to him. What a great story!

I'm not interested in keeping people out of the martial arts. If the attitude and knowledge are there, let 'em test!
 

jfarnsworth

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Gemini said:
jfarnsworth - I should have clarified a little better. If he would have not broken the board, he still would have passed the test. Normally, a student will be stopped long before that. It's all in their face. If a student shows despair, it stops. It becomes self defeating at that point. He never had that look and it was his decision to continue. I think watching it was as hard on the Sabumnim. When he started training him, he was 4 years old, 22 lbs, couldn't stand on one leg and wore braces on both legs.
I think you were fine with your decisions and I wasn't trying to put you down. I just have something against those who say if you don't break a board you can't pass the belt test. I also have a son that has a physical handicap and I try to stretch with him and teach him a little at a time. He is also four and doesn't know he has a problem. I'm hoping that one day he too will be able to follow in my footsteps but it's too soon to tell. Very good story sir and thanks for sharing a wonderful story with the rest of us. :asian:
 

kempojack

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Gemini first let me say congratulations to you and your son on his achievement. Reading your post hit very close to home. I am the father of an 8 year old daughter with Downs Syndrome who just resently tested for her blue belt. My wife and I have been holding her back a little because we were not sure if she deserved to be promoted because of her grasp of the required material. Before her test her brother and I gave her a little pre test to see how she'd do. She didn't do everything correct but she knew when she made mistakes and kept at it on her own until she could get it correct. She didn't want my son or me to help her fix what she was doing wrong she was determined to get it right. When she would finally get a move down the look of absolute joy on her face was one of those moments that will last a lifetime. She went on to test for her blue belt and I couldn't be more proud of her she did a great job. In the end I sarted to look at her abilities in a little different way she like your son may never be the greatest martial artists in the world but unlike most of us they will be the very best that they can be. Good luck to you and your son hope you both enjoy your future in the martial arts.
 
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Gemini

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I want to thank you all so much for your responses. This has been on my mind since the test, but it wasn't until a recent post by Rick Wade regarding training your own kids vs others that I realized I couldn't answer the question subjectively and created this post. I wanted to believe he earned it. A few of you mentioned your own personal situations with your own children and it seems so obvious what's right when it's someone else talking about it. Of course we must support these kids. There is no question here. I'm slightly surprised as I thought there would most certainly be more than a few "answer B's" and "You're an idiot" (which I already admitted) but there were none. I've always believed, as many do, that the measure should be made from a "heart of the practitioner" point of view, but have been ridiculed for that in the past.

It's the people here and their opinions that I have come to respect. I was very nervous posting this, but it's a load off my mind.

To each and every one of you. Thank you.

Regards,
 

terryl965

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Gemini your humbleness is only out measured by your passion of the Arts. Have a great day.

Terry Lee Stoker
 

shesulsa

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Gemini,

I am really, really pleased that you posted all of this and that your son achieved his rank. Good for you and good for your Sabumnim. Your story made me choke up also.

I read stories like this one and the one by kempojack and think, 'man I have no excuse to not train the hardest I can.'

And you never know - in order to teach, you have to understand a person's mindset and how to get into that mind to teach a concept you understand but can't (or won't) demonstrate. So perhaps he will represent your art better than you thought he might.

Congratulations to your son, to you and to your Sabumnim. :asian:
 

Makalakumu

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I have a student with one leg and other physical disablilties. Her prosthetic begins right below the knee. She trains right alongside other children who are fully able and capable. She is not able to perform some techniques and she is not able to do what she can do very well.

For a long time, I wondered how to accomodate her and not make her feel different by accomodating her. I worried that the students would see what I was doing and feel like it was unfair. I worried that I was making a double standard for my students and that I was excusing to much...watering down my art.

After thinking about this a long time and e-mailing a teacher who specializes in teaching MA to people with disabilities, I realized that I was being foolish. I was focusing on what the student couldn't do and forgetting what they could do. The challenge for this student wasn't in completing all of the requirements for the test, it was in completing what she could do...and working as hard as she could to make that stuff work.

I'm embarressed by my arrogance. I was foolish to think that everyone should be able to be held to an artificial golden standard regardless of their bodies. That is the easy way. I think that as I grow as a teacher, I'll better be able to find the golden standard for each of my students. This thread reminds me that I still have lots of work ahead...

Kudos, Gemini...here's to being a fool and attempting to change...:asian:

upnorthkyosa
 
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