Red Flag for School?

Superperson

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Hi,
I'm new to this forum and I have a question.

I'm currently taking Hapkido with a little Taekwondo mixed in. (My school has you learn both if you take Hapkido.) I'm very new to this style and new to my current school. I want to start by saying I think my teacher is great, or he seems to be that way with my little experience, and I'm having allot of fun but..and here is where my question comes into place.
I have noticed that their are a few children, like 6 or so that have black belts. At first I was shocked and thought they must be pretty good if these kids that are 13 or less have obtained that. During my last class I walked into a student who was maybe 12 or 13 who had just gotten his 2nd Degree black belt. I was skeptical, but given my lack of understanding I tried to think little of it, until later in that class the teacher asked this same student to preform a couple of roundhouse kicks. The student had terrible form and missed two of his targets! Also another student who was a red belt said she had gotten that within a year...
After seeing these instances it made me worried that I might be going to whats called a Mcdojo.
What are your thoughts?
 

JR 137

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As a disclaimer, I’m not a fan of children wearing black belts in any way, shape or form. I admit it’s a personal problem that’s not very rational, but I can’t get past it :) I think they should get a completely different color, like gray or something. But that’s another story.

A few thoughts on this and rank in general...

Junior/child black belts isn’t strictly a McDojo thing. Plenty of legitimate places have them. Even Kyokushin, which is a bare knuckle full-contact karate style has them. Junior black belts in most places have a similar syllabus to adults, but it’s shortened in a sense. Where I train (we don’t have any current junior black belts, but we’ve had a few) a junior black belt’s progress in the syllabus would be around where a 4th-3rd kyu (Korean arts call it gup?) adult would be. I hear it generally takes kids 6 years of consistent training to test for junior black belt.

Kids in the MA have a different objective than adults IMO. Aside from the self discipline, focus, confidence, yadda yadda yadda banner stuff, IMO the main aim for kids in the MA is to get them to love the art, and to give them a solid physical foundation for when they’re ready to train as adults. Kids in the MA isn’t about training young warriors and fighting machines. If you agree with that, then you can see the belt rank doesn’t matter much. Add to that, I don’t know of any schools that automatically grant a junior black belt an adult black belt when they come of age without a test. I’m sure there’s one or two out there that just hand out an adult black belt upon whatever birthday, it would haven’t seen it nor heard of it. If awarding a child a black belt (as long as a good standard has been met) is going to keep them interested and motivated, and they’ll grow up to be excellent MAists as adults, I can accept it as a necessary evil.

Rank means different things to different schools and people, regardless of age. While there is usually minimum proficiency standards at most places, rank is most typically an outward sign of where the student is curriculum-wise. A lot of that is a function of time served and consistency in attendance. Even the most competition heavy schools don’t have a definitive hold on rank; in no school is it possible for every single 4th dan to beat every single 3rd dan, every 3rd to beat every 2nd dan, etc. There’s way more to rank than that.

Everyone else’s rank doesn’t change anything about yours. There’s always going to be people who’s rank is suspect on the surface, and people who are better than their rank implies. Their rank is their business, and your rank is yours. The people on your left and the people on your right don’t deminish nor elevate your rank in any way.

Finally, going into a new place is a bit overwhelming when it comes to who’s who and what are the standards. Walk into my dojo, and anyone would ask why a certain few students are ranked as high as they are. Spend some time there, and the picture becomes quite clear - they work very hard, they’re very good teachers, they’ve had some injuries or illnesses, they aged, etc. Atch my teacher kick, and you’ll ask yourself how did he earn a 7th dan. Learn that he’s had both hips replaced over the years and he’s putting off having one redone, and it starts to make sense. Watch him pick apart and correct students’ technique and you’ll get it. None of that is apparent in a short visit.

Going back to your original question, it could be a McDojo or it could be a great place. Or it could be a place that doesn’t have very good rank standards, but the instruction is great. Train hard and see where it gets you. Ignore everyone’s rank, especially the kids’. Give it some time. If everything else works for you, what’s the difference? If you’ve got more issues that just the rank stuff, then it may be time to move on. Only time will tell.

And yeah... I went through that whole spiel and I still hate the concept of kid black belts. I’ve got issues :)
 

mrt2

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Hi,
I'm new to this forum and I have a question.

I'm currently taking Hapkido with a little Taekwondo mixed in. (My school has you learn both if you take Hapkido.) I'm very new to this style and new to my current school. I want to start by saying I think my teacher is great, or he seems to be that way with my little experience, and I'm having allot of fun but..and here is where my question comes into place.
I have noticed that their are a few children, like 6 or so that have black belts. At first I was shocked and thought they must be pretty good if these kids that are 13 or less have obtained that. During my last class I walked into a student who was maybe 12 or 13 who had just gotten his 2nd Degree black belt. I was skeptical, but given my lack of understanding I tried to think little of it, until later in that class the teacher asked this same student to preform a couple of roundhouse kicks. The student had terrible form and missed two of his targets! Also another student who was a red belt said she had gotten that within a year...
After seeing these instances it made me worried that I might be going to whats called a Mcdojo.
What are your thoughts?
I wouldn't think too much about the kids, if you are getting good instruction. That said, I am with JR 137. If it were up to me, younger kids especially would not wear the same belts as adults, especially black belt. And, I am not a fan of kids as young as 12 being awarded 2nd or 3 Dan. That said, I am over 50, and some of my attitude comes from my experience when I was a teenager, where I was, at 14, among the youngest students allowed to train with adults, and even that was only because I was too big to fight in the children's class. My former teacher did award black belts to children, but if, after they turned 15 they wanted to advance to adult black belt, they were demoted to red or green belt temporarily until the Master allowed them to test again for adult black belt. But that was in the early 80s, and it wasn't Tae Kwon Do, and the minimum time for adults to get to black belt was 3 years, and very few students did it in 3 years for a number of reasons. In practice, it took from 4 to 5 years for most adults. So it makes sense that under those circumstances, there were very few black belts under 16 or 17.

So I am adjusting to this little kid black belt thing, as there are a lot of them at my current school. Why? Well, for one, because probably more than 80% of the students are kids. Second, black belt while it is in theory a standard of excellence, in practice, at my school, the standard of excellence really starts at 2nd Dan. That is my opinion, and my observation. It isn't a knock on our provisional Black belts and 1st Dans. I just think that black belt means different things in different styles.

So, forget the kids for now. How is the skill level of the adult black belts? Do their techniques look refined? Does it look like something you would aspire to in 2 to 3 years of training 3 or 4 times per week? Or do their techniques look like crap, too?
 

CB Jones

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This is where JR 137 and I respectfully disagree.

And I admit that my opinion has a large bias due to my son.

But with that I use my son (13 years old) as an example....he started karate when he turned 4 years old...he was promoted to youth blackbelt at age 10. He is naturally athletic, competitive and a hard worker. He is at the dojo 4-5 nights a week for 3 hours per night plus training at home. He tested for blackbelt along with other adults and was required to do everything the adults did. The only thing different was that during the continuous free sparing portions of the test he was allowed to spar against other youth.

He met the standards required to earn his blackbelt and all the blackbelts in that lineage at the test agreed and promoted him.
 

mrt2

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This is where JR 137 and I respectfully disagree.

And I admit that my opinion has a large bias due to my son.

But with that I use my son (13 years old) as an example....he started karate when he turned 4 years old...he was promoted to youth blackbelt at age 10. He is naturally athletic, competitive and a hard worker. He is at the dojo 4-5 nights a week for 3 hours per night plus training at home. He tested for blackbelt along with other adults and was required to do everything the adults did. The only thing different was that during the continuous free sparing portions of the test he was allowed to spar against other youth.

He met the standards required to earn his blackbelt and all the blackbelts in that lineage at the test agreed and promoted him.
It sounds like your son earned his black belt. And, if every child trained that hard, I am sure JR 137 would have less of a problem. But honestly, a lot of the kids aren't working that hard at Martial arts, and probably shouldn't as they risk overtraining. But that said, I don;t know many adults training 15 hours a week in Karate or TKD, either. (3 to 5 hours a week is more like what most people do, and some do even less) With today's overprogramed youth, you are lucky if you can get a little kid to put in 2 hours a week in to martial arts. Subtract from that summers off as many parents pull their kids out of martial arts over the summer so they can go to camp, vacation, etc...and you are looking at the possibility of very slow progress indeed. Which is why some of us aren't crazy about the proliferation of black belts among children.

But let me ask you. At what age did your son really start Karate? I would wager, he might have enrolled on one of those Little Ninja, or Little Dragons, or something program, but it wasn't the full curriculum.
 

CB Jones

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But let me ask you. At what age did your son really start Karate? I would wager, he might have enrolled on one of those Little Ninja, or Little Dragons, or something program, but it wasn't the full curriculum.

No...it was the full curriculum. All beginners train together regardless of age and you progress at your own rate. There are no kids programs.

At age 9 he was teaching forms to adult beginners.
 

mrt2

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No...it was the full curriculum. All beginners train together regardless of age and you progress at your own rate. There are no kids programs.

At age 9 he was teaching forms to adult beginners.
Training 3 hours a night at age 4? Really?
 

CB Jones

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My point is simply....if you meet that standard set for black belt....then you have earned it regardless of age.
 

Headhunter

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He met the standards required to earn his blackbelt and all the blackbelts in that lineage at the test agreed and promoted him.


The thing is you say that like that's something unique....all mcdojo lineages would agree and promote a kid as well...not saying that's the case with your boy but it's the case with the ops where below average kids are given black belts
 

Headhunter

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Hey man if you're getting good training then that's all that matters. I've been in clubs where the belts have been given to people because they're the instructors friends or I've seen kids promoted because the instructor works with their dad. I knew it was wrong but it didn't worry me because I knew I always worked my butt off for every belt I ever earned. I went to every class, listened hard and trained hard by myself so I knew that whenever I put on a new belt I had actually earned it myself which is what I wanted. I never wanted to be given anything because frankly there's no point in doing it if you're just given it without the work.

But the thing is. The kids are the money maker for most martial art schools. I can't fault an instructor for making some cash and yeah to me standards for kids should be lower because they've got lower attention spans, their bodies aren't fully developed and they can't remember as much in most cases. But I don't think kids should be given black belts even those kiddy ones because 2 reasons. 1) it creates a false impression to insiders like you said you expected these kids to be amazing because they had black belts on at that age and they weren't. Now THAT is the problem with martial arts. The belts are given when not deserved then the practitioners get worse and worse because these black belts aren't as good and they'll go onto teach students who again won't be as good because they've not had good instruction. Then the cycle goes on and on and on.

Second reason is the kids themselves. They'll think them self something special and go around bragging they're a black belt as kids do then most likely that'll cause a fight with a bully or just some punk trying to prove himself by taking on a black belt and the could very easily get beat then the kid gives up training because he thinks it doesn't work...well it does work the kids just as good as he thinks.

But anyway the overall point If you enjoy yourself at the club just don't worry about anything else just enjoy your training
 

pdg

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I'm confused...

Someone asks a question about a school, the general consensus is to observe the higher grades/ranks. As in, how do they perform, do you want to be like them.

And someone mentions kid black belts, there's no shortage of people saying it's not right, shouldn't happen, sign of bad school, a child can't possibly be capable of earning a real BB.



Then what happens?

Someone mentions rank.

Rank means nothing, train for you not a bit of cloth, a belt is for holding your trousers up - and so on and so forth.



So really people, which is it?

Either a rank is a valid way of measuring ability and it's not a good thing when it gets misused and awarded to the undeserving

OR

rank is meaningless, in which case who cares if a 7 year old with 19 stripes on their black belt can't kick above the knee.



So there you go, challenge for the day.

Make up your mind.
 

Headhunter

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I'm confused...

Someone asks a question about a school, the general consensus is to observe the higher grades/ranks. As in, how do they perform, do you want to be like them.

And someone mentions kid black belts, there's no shortage of people saying it's not right, shouldn't happen, sign of bad school, a child can't possibly be capable of earning a real BB.



Then what happens?

Someone mentions rank.

Rank means nothing, train for you not a bit of cloth, a belt is for holding your trousers up - and so on and so forth.



So really people, which is it?

Either a rank is a valid way of measuring ability and it's not a good thing when it gets misused and awarded to the undeserving

OR

rank is meaningless, in which case who cares if a 7 year old with 19 stripes on their black belt can't kick above the knee.



So there you go, challenge for the day.

Make up your mind.
Rank isn't important for training but it's still wrong for kids to be going round wearing black belts claiming they're experts because like it or not belts are important to some people and whenever you mention martial arts to someone first thing they ask is what belt are you...and then outsiders come see these kids who look like trash wearing black belts and then people think that the style is rubbish because of these kids and ruins the reputation of traditional styles
 

CB Jones

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A black belt is about more than memorising a bunch of moves

It is a rank awarded to someone who has proven to have met a certain standard set forth by someone or group.

The thing is you say that like that's something unique....all mcdojo lineages would agree and promote a kid as well...not saying that's the case with your boy but it's the case with the ops where below average kids are given black belts

I understand. But regardless a style has the right to set forth their standard and promote their students who achieve that standard. If Joe Blow-itsu decides a student meets their standard for black belt....then that student is a black belt in Joe Blow-itsu.....it is silly to get upset about the rank of individuals in a style that you are not a member of.
 

Headhunter

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It is a rank awarded to someone who has proven to have met a certain standard set forth by someone or group.



I understand. But regardless a style has the right to set forth their standard and promote their students who achieve that standard. If Joe Blow-itsu decides a student meets their standard for black belt....then that student is a black belt in Joe Blow-itsu.....it is silly to get upset about the rank of individuals in a style that you are not a member of.
Sure still doesn't mean they're any good
 

dvcochran

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This is where JR 137 and I respectfully disagree.

And I admit that my opinion has a large bias due to my son.

But with that I use my son (13 years old) as an example....he started karate when he turned 4 years old...he was promoted to youth blackbelt at age 10. He is naturally athletic, competitive and a hard worker. He is at the dojo 4-5 nights a week for 3 hours per night plus training at home. He tested for blackbelt along with other adults and was required to do everything the adults did. The only thing different was that during the continuous free sparing portions of the test he was allowed to spar against other youth.

He met the standards required to earn his blackbelt and all the blackbelts in that lineage at the test agreed and promoted him.
He sounds like the exception, not the rule. I think this is part of the equation that started younger students getting black belts. What else can you do with an exceptional student? However, what do you do with an average kid who has worked out as long, knows all the curriculum well, and wants to test for BB? After some time saturation sets in and it becomes the norm. I think it is very much the responsibility of the instructor since it can be a positive or negative reflection on the program.
 

CB Jones

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Sure still doesn't mean they're any good

Sure...but that that school's problem.

We have gone to tournaments and seen adult black belts who weren't any good.....doesn't change the fact that they are still black belts.
 

Headhunter

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Sure...but that that school's problem.

We have gone to tournaments and seen adult black belts who weren't any good.....doesn't change the fact that they are still black belts.
Let's not pretend. you don't actually have an opinion of your own on this. Let's be honest the only reason your so defensive is because your kid got one that's literally the only reason you're defending it. I'm not trying to be rude just stating a fact.

There's one big reason for kid black belts...money...it's as simple as that. Parents like going around saying their little Timmy is a black belt when bragging how great their kid is. Instructors should just be honest about it. I've spoken to plenty of instructors about it and they admit it. It's to keep the classes busy and encourage the others not because of the actual skill. I've been in martial arts for over 40 years and never heard any instructor say they genuinely believe a kid under 18 deserves a black belt
 

dvcochran

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Sure...but that that school's problem.

We have gone to tournaments and seen adult black belts who weren't any good.....doesn't change the fact that they are still black belts.
Of course that the reality of things. You are an experienced martial artist so you see it very differently from the average person setting in the bleachers. Do you not "worry" about how it reflects on your MA?
 

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