Speaking up or staying silent...what to do when you are not the senior person

Gwai Lo Dan

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I'll start a conversation leading off from another thread,
Taekwondo Class

I have 3 examples where I deferred to authority which was more silent than I felt right. So now, I think I will be speaking up more, and let them tell me to not interrupt if they disagree.

Why would the 20 y/o intentionally blast a 13 y/o in the face? Obviously there is an issue with a self-esteem thing, or a bullying nature, or a misperception of the goal of the training... there is something.

I didn't see the kick, since there were 2 sparring sessions at the same time and I was watching the other one. I only saw the 13 year old put his hand on his face and the red swollen result. I think it was a "misperception of the goal" as you say. I am not sure how much of a "blast" it was, but enough for some redness and swelling. No mention was made at the time to the 3rd dan, so I talked to the 5th dan after class.

On to Monday's story. We had sparring gear on for drills and then the instructor said we would spar. I said something like "I'll pass, thanks". A 20 year old yellow belt was to be my opponent, and she kicks hard without accuracy. So the instructor then called a 48 year old green belt woman to be the opponent of the yellow belt, and I thought, "I feel sorry for this 48 year old green belt". Sure enough, there were lots of kicks at the belt, right below the hogu, and a solid one to the thigh that caused the green belt to stop. She talked to the KJN afterwards who had been in his office. I talked with the 3rd and 2nd dans myself (I am 1st dan) and told them that's why I don't spar...there are too many people I don't trust...and they need to control students more when sparring goes a little too hard for 1 person.

Yesterday in the black belt class a 4th dan was leading the class, but I led an exercise on a spinning hook kick. Two kids were sort of off in la-la land. One kid hadn't taken the class too seriously right from the beginning, but since I am not leading the class and am not senior, I didn't say anything initially. Now that I was leading the exercise, I switched places with one kid so both would focus more. Then the kid, rather doing a spinning hook kick to the head, did a back kick to my groin. I wasn't wearing protection. lol now...not then. I got angry at the kid and told him so for "screwing around in warmups, not paying attention in class" etc... After class, I apologized for losing my cool because I really think that feedback needs to be constructive.

But in the end, with all stories, I think I will be standing up more even though I am only 1st dan. I am older (47 years old) than everyone but 2 people (other than the KJN), so I think (or hope) that this does give some ability to let's say "offer assistance and guidance without being asked" to a 3rd/4th/5th dan.

Is age another form of experience in your school? Do you look at age and belt level as two similar but different things when it comes to leadership?
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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Is age another form of experience in your school? Do you look at age and belt level as two similar but different things when it comes to leadership?
IMO age is not a form of experience. Maturity can be, but that is not age. If I were in charge for whatever reason, and a lower belt with less experience was acting as a co instructor (in a situation where he isn't), I would be reminding him who the instructor is and that he needs to respect that. I've had to do that multiple times in the past when someone in their 40s or 50s wasn't being appropriate because I am younger then them (I'm currently in my early twenties), even though I was teaching them, and have over a decade more experience then many of them. It is disruptive, and those people do not have the maturity you would hope a fully grown adult should have.

However, in none of your stories did it sound like that was an issue. In the first example; I would have no issue if I were running a class and something like that happened that I didn't notice with you coming up either during class (while people are drilling) or after class to bring it to my attention.

For the second example, if you're unwilling to spar because the students don't have control, that is something that absolutely needs to be addressed and should be brought to the instructors attention.

With the third example, you were teaching so you would be free to do what you want, and while I might be upset/annoyed by your outburst as the teacher, I wouldn't have an issue with it considering you apologized afterwards.


If you notice with each of those situations though, none of it had to do with age (and minimally with rank either...only rank insofar as your ability to determine what might be considered inappropriate with sparring or drills). You shouldn't be throwing your age around as a way to "offer assistance or guidance without being asked", as that is in a sense you looking down on the instructor by assuming they need guidance from someone older than them, BUT if there is a concern, like any student, you should be able to address those concerns and feel like your opinion is valued.

Sorry if this turned into a rant, but I'm tired currently and I have had enough experiences with older people in martial arts and other places where I was the leader but looked down on due to my age by people less qualified that it bugs me when people assume their age gives them authority they did not earn.
 

Tames D

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For the second example, if you're unwilling to spar because the students don't have control, that is something that absolutely needs to be addressed and should be brought to the instructors attention.
This is something that shouldn't have to be brought to the instructors attention. If the instructors are unaware of reckless sparing, then they are not paying attention and properly doing their job.
I feel that any student should have the right to speak up regardless of their rank or age. If that is a problem with the instructors, well, what can I say, I'd find another place to spend my money.
 

Monkey Turned Wolf

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This is something that shouldn't have to be brought to the instructors attention. If the instructors are unaware of reckless sparing, then they are not paying attention and properly doing their job.
Agreed, but that is why it is pointed out to them. If they don't notice it, it's pointed out, and they start paying attention and addressing it, that's great. If they continue not addressing/noticing, that's another issue altogether. (I'm also assuming from what he wrote that it's a larger class, so there are probably a lot of different sparring matches going on at once. In that case, I would give the instructor some leeway on not noticing someone being a bit reckless).

I feel that any student should have the right to speak up regardless of their rank or age. If that is a problem with the instructors, well, what can I say, I'd find another place to spend my money.
I agree with that...like I said, with any student they should be able to address concerns and feel their opinion is valued. I have no issue with that. What I have an issue with is when an older person assumes they know better than the instructor how to lead a class simply because they are older, and it shows in their attitudes towards that instructor.
 

Headhunter

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Rank should mean nothing in that situation. If a white belt on he first class is unhappy he should have the right to talk. People think if your not a black belt or the head instructor you have no right to say anything that's bs everyone should be able to say if they're not happy
 

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I listen more to people who can bash me. But just in general I am pretty open to opinions.

We are expected to coach each other rather than stay silent
 
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Gwai Lo Dan

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IMO age is not a form of experience. Maturity can be, but that is not age. If I were in charge for whatever reason, and a lower belt with less experience was acting as a co instructor (in a situation where he isn't), I would be reminding him who the instructor is and that he needs to respect that.

Thanks. Upon reflection last night, I think I will talk with the instructors about the topic in general, and go from there. Some instructors may be ok, others not, and I will act accordingly.
 
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Gwai Lo Dan

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IMO age is not a form of experience. d while I might be upset/annoyed by your outburst as the teacher, I wouldn't have an issue with it considering you apologized afterwards.
A priest in church once said that it is so much easier to be a good Christian when there are no people around. It's so much harder to keep your cool after someone hits you solidly in the cajones, with a technique they weren't supposed to be doing. But I can laugh now, so I'm ok and the kid was good with the apology too.
 

DanT

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I can only speak from my experience, but from age 16 I was giving advice to most of the senior students. That's not to say I didn't respect them, I just advanced really quickly because I was training so much. It was more of a mutual thing, they help me, I help them, we help each other, etc. Age is just a number. I know some 8 year olds who are more mature than some 28 year olds.

I believe it truly depends on the culture of the school. At my club we're pretty open to correcting each other. The truth is tho we don't talk that much, we just punch each other and train hard. I personally like being corrected.
 

CB Jones

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we would spar. I said something like "I'll pass, thanks". A 20 year old yellow belt was to be my opponent, and she kicks hard without accuracy.

No disrespect but I found this statement odd.

You... a black belt...won't spar with a beginner because she kicks too hard and without accuracy....



Wouldn't it been better as a black belt to spar with her and help her work on that control?
 
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Gwai Lo Dan

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No disrespect but I found this statement odd.

You... a black belt...won't spar with a beginner because she kicks too hard and without accuracy....

Wouldn't it been better as a black belt to spar with her and help her work on that control?
To not get kicked solidly in the groin or leg, I'd either have to shut her down or run around. I didn't see the point. I didn't feel at the time that it was my place to give her a talk. So I said my position about me to the instructor (I;d rather not spar) and she was free to ask me why if she desired.

Previously though, I told the KJM and the 5th dan (both of whom were not there) that I'd decline sparring, after getting hit too often by hard poorly placed shots. That talk was after getting hit hard in the side with a back kick in no contact sparring. I thought I was being nice to a 10 year old kid by giving opportunities in no contact sparring, and ended up having a hard time to sleep for 3 weeks.

I like sparring with people I trust though. But I don't control with whom I will spar.
 

JP3

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Is age another form of experience in your school? Do you look at age and belt level as two similar but different things when it comes to leadership?
No, not just Age as in who is older has more experience. It's who has more experience... has more experience, as redundant and obvious as that sounds.

I've got a brown belt guy who has about ayear and a half, maybe 2 years of aikido experience. But, he's got over thirty years of coaching kids in basketball, track, cross country, etc., behind him. I'd be an idiot if I didn't tap into that experience and learn from it, use it, from time to time.
 
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Gwai Lo Dan

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People think if your not a black belt or the head instructor you have no right to say anything that's bs everyone should be able to say if they're not happy
Somewhat of an update.....At Friday's class the 65 year-old female black belt showed me a 2 inch round black bruise, at mid thigh. (I didn't recall that they sparred). She said she told the young yellow belt afterwards to not kick so hard, but that the message wasn't well received.
 

JP3

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Somewhat of an update.....At Friday's class the 65 year-old female black belt showed me a 2 inch round black bruise, at mid thigh. (I didn't recall that they sparred). She said she told the young yellow belt afterwards to not kick so hard, but that the message wasn't well received.
So... this is precisely what I was talking about.

I would want to know precisely what it means, "wasn't well received." First, but I think I understand. Assuming I do, the yellow belt needs to understand what it is that she is doing to the other people, i.e. she needs to be handled somewhat roughly by someone bigger, stronger, better than her, so that she figures it out. At this point, she's a bully in the making.

That is my opinion. I have had that opinion of how to handle problems like this in the dojo/dojang/gym for about 30 years now. The externally-applied attitude adjustment is sometimes the most expeditious method of handling this type of behavior. Of course, everyone could sort of ignore it, and she'll continue to hurt people worse and worse... or you could run her off... but then you lose someone who could be a very promising, long-term student if she would simply control herself.
 
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Gwai Lo Dan

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So... this is precisely what I was talking about.

I would want to know precisely what it means, "wasn't well received."

I didn't the details, so I don't know. It's easy to dismiss 1 person who critiques you, but once others tell you the same thing, it sinks in. Maybe if the KJN talked to her (I beleive he was going to), it will have sunk in now.
 

JP3

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I didn't the details, so I don't know. It's easy to dismiss 1 person who critiques you, but once others tell you the same thing, it sinks in. Maybe if the KJN talked to her (I beleive he was going to), it will have sunk in now.
Gotcha. If you can, check back in a couple of months ith her progress, what steps were taken to correct her behaviror if you are aware of them, etc.
 

WaterGal

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I know this is tangental to the original topic, but we used to have a lot of the same problems with low belt students hurting their sparring partners because of poor control, and people not wanting to spar anymore. We tried talking to them, doing the old-school approach where you kick them as hard as they're kicking to show them what they're doing, etc, but not of that really solved the problem.

What did solve it was changing the way we taught sparring. We started spending a lot more time working on basic sparring skills. Our students now spend a lot more time practicing footwork, putting on a hogu and doing light contact striking with an emphasis on accuracy, practicing dodges and counterattacks, etc. The beginner students do almost no actual sparring, just this stuff over and over and over. We've been doing this about..... 1.5 years now I think, and the skill level of the students who've trained this way is much higher & they don't accidently hurt each other nearly as much.
 

gpseymour

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Is age another form of experience in your school? Do you look at age and belt level as two similar but different things when it comes to leadership?

Not age, but maturity. I've had some mid-50's students who weren't any more controlled or considerate than some of the 20-something guys. And I've had young folks who were much more mature than their years. If someone has wisdom, I'll always welcome that. So, someone with maturity and a couple of years experience is a better source of feedback for me than someone without maturity, with an extra year of experience.
 
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